Skip to main content

Full text of "Quest a feminist quarterly"

See other formats


a feminist quarterly 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 


iUEST ^ 



eminist quarterly 










. . 


LESBIAN The Leader 




! P , . \TCIf 

Editorial Coordinator \ 

y . ■ ■ Charlotte Bunch 



Managing Eli 


Beverly Firfii j 

Design Editor 

I < 

i ^SJiSw 


i aFEMIN] ' >N< [] 

Karen Kallias B 

» i s 

f 81- 3 ■% 

>\V 1 . PIRIT 


> .2 * a % „ *s 


Nan, Hartsocfc 

j 1 1 a || s 


S'd • CAW" 

J g jj fe '* .IS' '3 

;':•' . ,;:,!,' ,.v n : - ■ 

G . l..i 

a %• 

S o 


■6 ■'g* * 

* £ 6 2 -SO £ 

Quest: a feminis t: guar I > in-deptl 

feminist political analysis an i ' 

..." bi i i din g I uei tio n 1 1 u 

possibly including such concrete fori i 
latioriai conferences, a national org 
1 editors, are all women who hav , 

nt for several years and have re t where 

iea is, l ion ,.- gh various 

■ ■ " pli ies and end up I 

01 overall perspective is still not adequate. Where has tin 
I: us? Closet to real econ< .,< . 

w men? Closer to an e ■..■■' the < • I ■ md violeno 

' i t to self-determination for all v, i i ' 

.■.ers ourselves and expect that fen inists a 
i ")' and the world will contribute to this prace!.sol>. - ' ><■■■ 

graphic by Janet Jenkins 
Copyright ©1976 by Janet Jenkins 

future for 

Charlotte Bunch 
& Beverly Fisher 

graphic by Sigrid Trumpy 

The following is an edited transcript 
of an interview with Charlotte Bunch 
(CB) and Bev Fisher (BF) produced by 
the Feminist Radio Network (FRN), 
formerly Radio Free Women, Washing- 
ton D.C. The original show was engi- 
neered by Laura Bertran, edited by 
Shirl Smith, and moderated by Juanita 
Weaver, former member of FRN; this 
transcript was edited by Quest. 

* Rights for the original tape from which 
this edited version was made are retained 
by the Feminist Radio Network. 

The Feminist Radio Network is a tax- 
exempt educational organization which 
serves as a national distribution service for 
the sale of a broad range of woman-oriented 
and produced tape programs. To contact 
the Feminist Radio Network for further 
information and a free catalog, write FRN, 
P.O. Box 5537, Washington DC 20016. 

2/Quest, vol. II no. 4, spring, 1976 

FRN: What I'd like you to discuss 
first is the issue of leadership as you 
saw it in the beginning of the move- 
ment, in the days of the counter- 
culture, when we were reacting to the 
left, and identifying male machismo 
and all that went with leadership. 
I'd like one of you to speak to what 
the movement view was like then, and 
how you think it has changed. 

CB: Well, I think the most impor- 
tant thing is that the original groups in 
women's liberation which were pri- 
marily small consciousness raising 
groups of 5 to 15 people, started in 
reaction to both the male Left and the 
male establishment; the kinds of lead- 
ership, the kinds of elite, the kinds of 
power of particular individuals that 
went with all that were what we saw 

as male forms, the male structures of 
leadership. Our desire was to avoid 
those structures, to somehow build a 
new kind of movement, a new kind of 
participation, participatory democracy- 
whatever word you want to call it. In 
the beginning, people didn't see the 
women's movement as a large political 
force for the future. It was seen prim- 
arily in personal terms, as a group to 
talk through certain problems. Before 
it became a political movement, the 
lack of structures and leadership wasn't 
really a problem. But after three or 
four months in a C-R type of group, 
we saw that in fact our problems were 
political. We weren't just a personal 
group; as we began to see that the 
movement was political, we also began 
to face the question of structure and 
leadership. We saw that it wasn't 

What Future for Leadership ?/3 

going to take a few months of figuring 
out how to handle our relationships or 
situations in a particular job, but the 
next 50 years of our lives in struggle 
against society's oppression of women. 
We started thinking about what ought 
to be the structures, the forms of orga- 
nization, and the leadership to guide 
that struggle. 

BF: I think that there were two 
other characteristics that you touched 
on that I would like to expand upon. 
One was the strong emphasis in con- 
sciousness-raising groups on the psych- 
ological oppression of women; and the 
other was the emphasis on the indiv- 
idual. However, perhaps defining one's 
oppression on an individual and psych- 
ological level is sometimes necessary 
to developing political consciousness. 
There was very little group identity 
and that impeded seeing the women's 
movement as a political force; as a 
movement that needed to gain political 
power. Also a lot of movement wom- 
en who were leaving the Left and prior 
political involvements were white and 
middle class. I think the kinds of 
needs they felt that were products of 
their class and race positions, were 
reflected in what the movement was 
at that time. 

CB: Even among women who saw 
the movement as political, or saw it 
as building a political force, there was 
a very strong anarchist desire. It was a 
good desire, but it was an unrealistic 
one. We did not want to repeat what 
groups of the Left had done, and a lot 

of the mistakes that we saw in those 
were identified as structure and leader- 
ship problems. For example, there 
were male Left superstars and women 
didn't want to see that happening to 
us-even when we saw our movement 
as political. The result of the positive 
desire to eliminate both sterile bureau- 
cratic structures and elitist leadership 
was, over time, immobilization. Ac- 
tually, three different things resulted: 
one was immobilization, because peo- 
ple who did not try to exert initiative 
and take leadership were put dpwn for 
doing so. Any strengths that began to 
come out were seen as oppressive 
(sometimes those strengths were op- 
pressive-especially when they were 
class-related); but no distinction was 
made between leadership that is op- 
pressive and that which is good. Sec- 
ond, we had a lot of hidden leader- 
ship. Leadership that's hidden is bad 
for both the leaders and the people 
led: because it isn't acknowledged, it 
is more subtle and manipulative, and 
because it can't function openly, it is 
frustrated. Such leadership is not ac- 
countable to anybody-if you're a 
hidden leader, you have to keep doing 
the work of a leader, taking initiative 
and keeping things going, but because 
you don't recognize yourself as a 
leader and no one else does, you're 
neither acknowledged nor accountable. 
No one can say, "You were a leader 
and you did this well or this poorly," 
so there's a buildup of frustration on 
all sides. Whereas a movement that 
acknowledges certain leaders can also 
put demands on them and can say, 


"We acknowledge your leadership; you 
take the responsibilities, and if you 
don't come through, then you're no 
longer our leader." The third result is 
that because we did not build struc- 
tures that we said were the women's 
movement, and we did not say, "These 
are our leaders," the media did it for 
us. The emergence of a series of wom- 
en who have become the media stars 
for women's liberation is not simply 
the responsibility of those women. It's 
the fault of the movement as well for 
not taking responsibility for deter- 
mining who our leaders would be. 
Therefore, when the media wants to 
talk about women's liberation, they're 
able to pick whomever they desire-and 
we have no structure, no organization 
to say, "This woman does not rep- 
resent us." We have no way to say, 
"These are the women we want to be 
our spokespersons." 

BF: I think another significant fac- 
tor in the early movement that was 
partially due to the lack of structure 
and leadership, was the very limited 
ability of small women's groups to 
reach out to new women, to go beyond 
their original group. When there is no 
structure for a new woman to join, 
whom does she talk to? Who is respon- 
sible for orienting new women? At 
that time, everybody questioned whe- 
ther it was their responsibility to take 
that role on, and did nothing. As a 
result, the movement became very 
internalized. In other words, it fed 
upon the people who were in it. It had 
no way to reach out. You need struc- 

tures and people who have definitive 
responsibilities for tasks such as pub- 
licity and welcoming new women to 
accomplish that. Then we must develop 
means for them to be accountable for 
those tasks. When there are no defined 
tasks and responsibilities, usually things 
just don't get done. For instance, a 
woman who has heard about women's 
liberation may, after four or five phone 
calls, finally be able to find somebody 
who is in a consciousness-raising group, 
but that C-R group is closed. The most 
encouraging words that she can get are, 
"Well, you could start your own group." 
And the woman calling doesn't even 
know what C-R means! There were no 
specific entry mechanisms for women 
at any level. I think that's been de- 
veloped now because of a recognition 
that the same people were around all 
the time-the movement wasn't grow- 
ing although awareness of its existence 
was growing in the outside world 
through media exposure. As a result, 
there were more and more women 
seeking it out— but the movement was 
not able initially to respond. 

CB: Another way that the in-group 
thing developed is that if you don't 
have a structure, an organization that 
in some way represents different in- 
terests of women's liberation, but you 
do have events and things happening, 
somebody has to decide what's going 
to happen. I remember in the early 
days of D.C. Women's Liberation, 
three or four people would get on the 
phone and discuss "what should we do 
about this or that." There was no way 

What Future for Leadership ?/5 

to be responsible to that amorphous 
body of women's liberation. Because 
there was no structure to determine 
who approved of what actions, women 
either had to do nothing, which meant 
immobilization, or they had to make a 
decision that was, in its nature, an in- 
group or elitist decision. It's ironic that 
lack of structures had the opposite 
effect from what was desired: women 
desired no structure in order for more 
people to participate-but if anything, 
it made it more difficult for anyone to 
participate because you had to know 
how to get into the right circles, you 
had to know who to call and what to 
do. It also made the movement more 
middle-class, since those people who 
could take that kind of initiative, 
who knew how to operate in meetings 
and had free time to do so were usually 
middle-class. You couldn't be working 
full-time at home and on a job and 
keep up with the movement when it 
meant calling around on the phone and 
asking every week what's happening. 
Women who didn't know anything 

>* \J 


about women's liberation and were 
busy, didn't have time to go through 
all that to find out what women's lib- 
eration was, and how they could fit in. 


BF: It seemed as if anyone coming 
into the movement had to be prepared 
to deal with everything that was hap- 
pening. There was no way, if a woman 
had a specific interest or need that she 
could limit her involvement to that 
particular thing unless there was some- 
thing that already existed in that area. 
At that time the only project group 
that existed in Washington was abor- 
tion counseling. Further, women would 
have to have the political know-how 
to jump into an existing group that 
had some kind of intellectual analysis 
like anti-imperialism. Again, that was 
a real barrier for women who weren't 
college-educated and had no prior 
Left political experience. Women just 
weren't ready to start with abstract 
theoretical analysis about women's 
class oppression. 

FRN: I'd like you to discuss hidden 
leadership, because that's what we've 
had to deal with. 

BF: What usually happens in wom- 
en's meetings discussing leadership is 
that someone believes passionately that 
we can function without it. They are 
absolutely certain that by deciding 
not to have leadership, leaders are not 
going to happen. But they happen any- 
way. Leadership is a phenomenon of 
group dynamics. Somebody takes init- 
iative in speaking, making suggestions 
for action, or doing work. They func- 
tion as leaders in those instances. The 
same thing also happens when we're 
talking about power. One woman be- 
lieves that we can eliminate power 

altogether. I think that there's a much 
more realistic appraisal of what power 
and leadership are today. Women are 
no longer naively saying they don't 
exist. The realization that we're going 
to have to deal with them because 
they're going to happen anyway is the 
first step. When we have that consci- 
ousness, then we are faced with how to 
deal with them. One of the important 
factors is tor a group to decide how a 
decision is going to be made. Who is 
our group? What is our constituency? 
Who has the authority and responsi- 
bility for making decisions? If we be- 
lieve in consensus, how do we reach 
it? What is the shared and understood 
process for arriving at it? If we believe 
in majority vote, how do we assure the 
rights of the minority? In the early 
movement, there was never any defi- 
nition of groups. They were amor- 
phous, "whoever came to a meeting." 
If you hadn't been at a meeting for 
weeks and showed up, you would be 
making decisions about something 
when you had no information, or all 
the previous discussions would have to 
be repeated for your benefit. Leader- 
ship arose because people who had 
been at all the meetings had the in- 
formation and led the discussion and 
where the issue was going to go. It's 
now recognized that we have to de- 
fine our constituencies, our groups, 
and who makes what decisions and 
how they are made. Consciousness is 
still high about making sure that every- 
one participates in decision-making. 
I hope we never lose that consci- 
ousness. I have little fear that women 

What Future for Leadership?/? 

are going to duplicate the tyranny and 
dictatorships of patriarchal systems. 
As a result of our oppression, we're in 
touch with how v/e've been exploited 
by those methods. 

CB: There is more recognition to- 
day of the need for leadership; and 
recognition that leadership and struc- 
tures go together. But there are still a 
lot of problems. I've been in groups 
where I've been a hidden leader, an 
acknowledged leader, or in groups 
where I wasn't a leader-and in each of 
those cases, people are willing to say 
there's leadership, but there's still a 
real fear of it. There's little under- 
standing of how to make leadership 
accountable, how to make it responsi- 
ble to you as a group. That's where 
structure is so important. The only 
real way to make leadership responsi- 
ble is to define who and what a group 
is, and then to be able to define what 
functions and power you give to who 
as leaders in what areas-and what 
the group expects in return. 

Leaders are not just the same few 
people; different people are leaders in 
different situations and at different 
times. I think leadership is people 
taking the initiative, carrying things 
through, having the ideas and imagina- 
tion to get something started, and 
exhibiting particular skills in different 
areas. In a given situation, you may 
have four or five different types of 
people exerting leadership, both within 
a group and towards the public. But 
unless there's a discussion about how 
each of those is a leader and what 

each is contributing, there's still a fear 
that they'll do too much, or fuck you 
over, if you can't do the particular 
thing that they're doing. Because of 
our oppression as women, many of us 
still have internalized fear of our own 
strength, and when we see someone 
asserting herself, being strong, we're 
afraid of what she might do, because 
she challenges us to be stronger. Many 
women also fear the responsibility of 
leadership. Women have taken respons- 
ibility in a lot of areas of work, but 
we've never had responsibility in what 
was defined as the political world. To 
be a leader is in fact a very big risk, 
because you have to try things and 
make mistakes, and you are responsible 
for those mistakes. Part of the anti- 
leadership attitude was avoiding that 
responsibility. If you didn't have any 
leaders and something went wrong, 
then nobody was responsible and had 
to take the blame. Women are fre- 
quently afraid of that kind of respon- 
sibility, afraid to decide between major 
alternatives which have a significant 
effect on the world, because we're not 
sure that we are competent to decide. 
So problems with leadership are not 
just being afraid of somebody else 
fucking us over-it's also being afraid 
of ourselves, and of taking ourselves 

FRN: Do you both honestly believe 
that there will be a more humane 
leadership because we have been op- 
pressed? A lot of people don't see 
much difference between what we're 
coming to and what already exists. 


BF: I think that Charlotte has al- 
ready defined leadership and that our 
definition of leadership is different 
from the beginning. She mentioned 
that there's a recognition among wom- 
en of different skills, that we don't 
have one leader who is supposed to 
represent everything. 

I have some fears that if we don't 
confront the issue, there will be a 
repetition of the mistakes that hap- 
pened before. In the reformist wing of 
the movement, for instance, in NOW, 
there has been some use of the old 
forms-the kind of hierarchical leader- 
ship that is not responsible to the vast 
membership. But I think that that 
leadership has been called down also, 
referring specifically to NOW. There's 
been a real recognition on a local level, 
by chapters, of being ignored by their 
national leaders. The local women 
spoke out and tried to make that lead- 
ership more responsible. At the same 
time, within what could be called the 
women's liberation part of the move- 
ment, changes have occured for other 
reasons. The reformists started by 
using old models of leadership; the WL 
section, because of the Left influence, 

and the reaction to bad leadership 
forms, started with anti-leadership tac- 
tics. I think they've now come to- 
gether at a point where there's recog- 
nition by both political segments of 
the movement that we've got to deal 
with the leadership question and with 

CB: I agree with that, but I would 
add that there are no guarantees. Most 
of the questions and fears people have 
about leadership are very real, and 
they're going to be real throughout the 
next fifty years. Too often, what 
people want is guarantees; they want a 
guarantee that we're going to be better. 
All I can ultimately say is, when I 
look at what male supremacist leader- 
ship has created, I'm willing to put my 
money on women. It seems to me that 
women do have a capacity at this time 
to create a better leadership, a better 
kind of structure; and I'm willing to 
risk it because I don't think there's 
any other option. 

If women don't risk dealing with 
structures and leadership, we will es- 
sentially accept male supremacist rule: 
without assertive female leadership, 
men will continue not only to rule in 
world power terms, but to determine, 
as they have been doing for the last 
few years, what is the women's move- 
ment, what are the movement struc- 
tures that get recognition, and who are 
the women's leaders. I don't have 
personal quarrels with the women they 
have set up, but most of them are not 
women who we as a movement have 
made leaders. As long as we don't 

What Future for Leadership ?/9 

acknowledge and support our own 
leaders, then the male establishment 
will continue choosing our public lead- 
ership. And for the vast majority of 
women in America, who they put 
forward as our leaders are our leaders. 
That is all that they ever see. The only 
way to fight media control is to put 
forward our own people. To deal with 
personality cults, we can recognize 
more than one leader, as Bev was 
saying. It's not that we're going to put 
forward "Ms. X" as the leader forever, 
but that we begin to support indiv- 
iduals who have shown leadership and 
use the media instead of being used by 
it. Even then, there are no guarantees 
that we will always make the right 

BF: The question of "guarantees 
and risk-taking" made me think about 
another class-related attitude. Women 
from secure middle-class backgrounds 
have a basic faith that things are 
going to work out for them. Very 
often, it's middle-class women who 
express fears about power; that women 
are going to duplicate the "power" 
trip of males. They want guarantees 
that it won't happen. With a group 
that includes women of different class 
backgrounds, I've noticed that women 
from lower-and working-class families 
don't ask for that kind of guarantee. 
They've never had it; risk is a constant 
in their lives. 

This question also relates to group 
identity. If a woman is looking for 
individual solutions to serve her needs 
and make her life better, then she 

wants guarantees and no risk. But if 
she sees herself as part of the larger 
group, then her questions are for more 
than her own stakes. She sees issues in 
terms of other women as well as her- 
self; that leads to political solutions, 
not personal ones. 

JW: I'd like to pick up on something 
you said, Bev, about individual solu- 
tions and forming your life goals 
by a larger identification with the 
movement, and something Charlotte 
said about how leaderless groups mani- 
fest a result of women's oppression— 
not wanting to take responsibility. 
I'd like you to deal with those ques- 
tions in terms of the individual and 
what is necessary for a group of 
individuals to deal with leadership 
and class issues. 

CB: I'll touch on a couple of aspects 
of it. First, the individual-group strug- 
gle is another whole radio show. 
But to begin here: I think that the 
only kind of movement that will suc- 
ceed is a movement of strong indiv- 
iduals. A problem arises when women 
seek only individual solutions, only 
enough to get by in their own life. 
I'm sympathetic to why anybody does 
that-any oppressed woman wants her 
life to improve-and any strategy that 
we devise has to deal with how to 
make people's lives better. No one 
makes a revolution just for an abstract 
ideal: you fight because your life is 
better and you see that society can be 
changed. But the danger is that as you 
begin to make your own life a little 


better, then you begin to try just to 
find your own solution. The people 
who can most easily find their own 
solution in this society are necessarily 
the most privileged: white, middle-or 
upper-class, with education and con- 

There is often confusion between 
being afraid of someone just trying to 


' / 


What Future for Leadership?/! 1 

make her career off the movement- 
which really does happen-and the 
movement's fear of all leadership. 
Women who exploit the movement 
just to build their own careers and 
individual solutions should be criti- 
cized, but sometimes it is difficult to 
distinguish that exploitation from real 
leadership. We need group structures 
where this can be talked through, 
where each woman's life decisions are 
accountable. For example, if you de- 
cide that a particular woman should 
get a job in women's studies, it's not 
just her individual solution because a 
lot of people benefit: her job can be 
used to expose more people to femi- 
nism through women's studies, to open 
the resources of that university to a 
larger number of women, her salary 
can be shared-her individual solution 
is women moving forward. Without 
accountability between each individual 
trying to build her life and a commit- 
ment to the whole movement, it's hard 
to keep those things going. This is 
particularly difficult because we see 
that every woman needs to develop 
skills and become economically in- 
dependent; that women do have to 
fight to get ahead at a certain level 
yet not become tokens; that we must 
all find better ways to live without 
pretending that is the solution . 

A lot of the problems of leadership 
and of group-individual identity center 
on our inability to help each other 
become stronger. The only way that 
women will stop putting down women 
who are strong is if they are strong 
themselves. And the only way to 

eliminate jealousy and fear of leader- 
ship is for each woman to know her 
own strengths and have enough confi- 
dence in what she is doing that she 
doesn't have to be the leader in a 
given situation to feel good about her- 
self. If we can help each woman build 
her own strength, find her own work 
that means something to her individ- 
ually, that will be a big step toward 
dealing with leadership. The two go 
together: structures are necessary to 
help women build their strengths; 
leaders today have to figure out how 
to build those structures, and, in that 
sense, it's a reinforcing cycle. The 
stronger we can make every woman, 
the more every woman will be able to 
recognize different leadership roles for 
different people and not be afraid of 
them. Then she can support leaders 
she believes in and challenge them 
when they're doing things that she 
considers wrong. This challenge can 
create constructive dialogue because it 
is not based on weakness or jealousy, 
but on a common struggle to deter- 
mine what is best for women. 


This Interview was taped in Decem- 
ber of 1972. In preparing copy for 
this issue of Quest, we were struck by 
how much the questions then raised 
about leadership are still with us. We 
decided to print it now, both for its 
discussion of those questions and be- 
cause the process of listening to what 
was said three and one-half years ago 
raised for us another vital issue: How 

12/ Quest 

does our movement pass on its history? 
How do we learn from our past-mis- 
takes and successes-so that each new 
group does not have to begin at zero 
but rather can build upon and expand 
the experiences of others? Putting 
together a body of knowledge and 
analysis of experience that could in- 
form and aid feminists was one of 
Quest's original goals. After two years 
of publication, we must ask how much 
have we accomplished and how much 
are feminists willing to listen to, and 
learn from, one another? Unfortun- 
ately, it seems nowhere near enough. 
We see the same trashing of leaders 
and glorification of structurelessness 
that existed five years ago. There is 

still resistance to working out the 
problems of class and race conflict, of 
individual and group accountability. 
We do, however, see progress being 
made on these questions. Many wom- 
en have been thinking about their 
experiences and about what kind of 
leadership the feminist movement 
needs. So, while some were not yet 
ready to write about it, we have 
gathered articles for this issue of Quest 
which we feel approach these ques- 
tions from a variety of different, oc- 
sionally conflicting, perspectives. Since 
leadership is a crucial make or break 
issue for feminism, this diversity seems 
an appropriate beginning for what 
must be a continuing dialogue. 

What Future for Leadership?/13 


The Workmaker, the Leader 

by Bertha Harris 

graphics by Nancy Myron 

The following is part of a longer 
essay, which in its first version was 
presented at the second annual con- 
vention of the Gay Academic Union, 
November 1974. A development of 
its thesis, as it particularly applies to 
literature, was first presented under 
the title "The Purification of Mon- 
strosity: j The Lesbian As Literature" 
to a Forum on Homosexual Literature 
at the Modern Language Association 
convention, December 27, 1974. 

My everlasting gratitude to Cather- 
ine Nicholson for introducing me to 
the work of the great feminist scholar, 
Jane Ellen Harrison, and to the several 
meanings of the Dionysian tradition. 
Catherine Nicholson is presently pre- 
paring for publication Harrison's femi- 
nist essays, written in 1907 and 1913, 
with an extensive introduction which 
will show the origins of Harrison's 
feminism in her anthropological stud- 
ies, Themis and Prolegomena to the 
Study of the Greek Religion. 

14/ Quest, vol. II no.4, spring, 1976 

"Do not bear us a grudge because 
we have killed you. You are sensible, 
you see that our children are hungry. 
They love you, they wish to put you 
into their body. Is it not glorious to 
be eaten by the sons of a chief?"-the 
Bear clan of the Ottawas, offering a 
part of the bear they have just killed 
a piece of its own flesh. (Harrison, 
quoting Frazer's Totemism and Ex- 
ogamy, 111, p. 6 7. 

The leader is she who makes work, 
who makes a thing happen, often in 
spite of the group which has provided 
the context for her work. The proto- 
type for the woman who is the worker, 
who makes work, is the lesbian. The 
lesbian is a new creature, neither man 
nor woman, but one who takes from 
both the father and the mother, in 
order to create work that goes beyond 
the limits of gender. The myth of 
Dionysus, reinterpreted from a femi- 
nist perspective, provides a framework 
for understanding this concept of the 
leader in the women's movement to- 
day. In this essay, I will explore this 
reinterpretation of the Dionysian myth, 
its importance for feminists, and how 
it relates to the lesbian as worker/lead- 



The Lesbian: The Workmaker, The Leader/ 15 

To be ignorant of the function of 
myth in one's life is to doom oneself 
to unrelenting originality; it is to 
regard the events of both the imagina- 
tion and the external world as unique- 
ly one's own contrivance and fate. To 
be in the midst of myth, yet be able 
to know, as well as feel, its affects 
and process is to have the power to 
control its outcome. 

The failure of the women's move- 
ment to express itself coherently, 
and impress itself without equivo- 
cation around a principle of leader- 
ship, derives from our failure to un- 
derstand ourselves as involved in a 
ritual act over which an explanatory 
story (the myth) is spoken.1 Once 
we understand this, we can realize 
that it is not a question of whether 
we should have leaders, or be leader- 
less, but of how to alter both the 
ritual act and the myth explaining 
it to prevent disaster when the lead- 
er inevitably happens. Ritual is the 
outcome of a group of people bond- 
ing together to assert a sense of 
self and power. A ritual may be some- 
thing as ordinary as an all-American 
family dinner; its mythic meanings-in 
terms of roles, leadership, power, etc.— 
can be determined by observing how 
the group feels about eating together. 
The successful rituals of patriarchy are 
no more than that assertion of group 
power: male unity, exclusion of wo- 
man, power over both woman and 
that which the ritual identifies as fe- 
male. Ritual is also a dramatic dis- 
closure of a group's collective assess- 
ment of, and responses to, reality. 

Myth is "the things said over a ritual 
act. z 

Our experience of myth is usually 
unconscious: living it without know- 
ing it; being in the midst of it, be- 
lieving that we are unilaterally con- 
trolling-thereby creating-our destiny. 
The illusion of power we experience 
while in the grip of the mythical pro- 
cess is our bondage. This illusion 
alone can negate all possibility of lib- 
eration. For example, as long as the 
leader (who may be expressed, in 
mythology as hero, or god) does not 
expect to be eaten by the group at a 
particular moment in the myth's de- 
velopment, she will be unable to pre- 
vent a reenactment of cannibalism. 
The group will feast, digest, rejoice in 
the energy catastrophe stimulates: 
then will reorganize around a new, 
as-yet-uneaten, leader to repeat the 
ritual. Only by understanding the 
myth can we alter its course. 

The prime reality of patriarchy 
is phallic competition. Patriarchy's 
response to its reality-its integral ri- 
tual act-is dramatization of phallic 
competition. Such ritualization takes 
both subtle and blatant forms-from, 
for example, the celebration of the 
Mass to the institutionalization of 
eroticism to war to the space race. 
The myth of patriarchy-"the things 
said over a ritual act"— is the on-going 
story of the defeat of woman. 

Patriarchy's most dynamic instance 
(the thing said about the thing done) 
is the celebrated drama of Fifth cen- 
tury B.C. Athens. Although classical 
scholarship and modern pyschoanaly- 


sis have conspired to conceal this 
fact, the plays are primarily about the 
triumph of patriarchal expression over 
matriarchal presence-the triumph of 
male "reason" over female "irration- 
ality;" of father over mother, of 
"civilization" over the primitive.* Im- 
plicit in the enactment of the tri- 
umph are the political results of the 
patriarchal ritual: the first, male bond- 
ing-responding to fear of the female; 
and, the second, prohibition of female 
bonding-preventing realization of the 
thing most feared: the emergence of 
female leadership out of the bonded 

Once patriarchy is identified as a 
ritualized reaction to fear of woman, 
it becomes apparent that the power- 
lessness of the women's movement 
originates in its assumption that we 
are a reaction to male control. A 
study of the Fifth century drama, 
especially the plays of Euripides, 
shows us quite the opposite: that men, 
as we know them, invented them- 
selves-and their classifying myths and 
rituals-as a reaction against what they 
perceived as our magical, annihilating 
power over them. The second inven- 
tion of patriarchy was the man's 
woman: woman divested of maternal 
knowledge and influence, no different, 

/ use "matriarchy" interchangeably 
with "pre-patriarchy "-loosely describing a 
time in Greece precceding, at some stage, 
the Fifth Century B.C. "Matriarchy" in 
fact is probably a state of mind. I use 
"patriarchy" to refer to the social fact of 
male rule and domination; "Olympus" and 
the "Olympians" are the mythology refer- 
ring to that fact. 

except biologically, from men. For 
example, the turning point of the 
Oresteia* occurs when the man's wo- 
man-imaged mythically and dramat- 
ically as Athena-explains that she 
sides with Orestes, the Furies-belea- 
gured male 5, because she never knew 
a mother: myth as a dramatization 
of political co-optation. Another ex- 
ample of the shift to patriarchal 
power can be seen in Euripides' 
Medea: correctly understood, it is 
not the tale of a woman's murdurous 
sexual jealousy but of how woman- 
and her power-is demolished through 
sexual intercourse with the male. The 
essence of Euripides' tragic vision is 
that woman's submission to man is 
the submission of ecstacy to sexual ec- 
onomics. It is the submission of the 
order of nature to the laws of industry, 
the submission of reality to an in- 
vented actuality. It is the rendering of 
the all-encompassing sense of ancient 
order and justice that was the goddess 
Themis into the two-dimensional card- 
board fiction of the Olympians. 

Most important in the Euripidean 
drama are the distinctions between 
the pre-patriarchal (or matriarchal) 
and the patriarchal. Woman (Medea 
is a perfect instance) is dramatized as 
representative of an organic process 
in which the social, cultural and polit- 
ical-all forms, both divine and human 
-are interlocked and interdependent 
in a life-sustaining ritual out of which 
grows the image (the myth) of self- 
hood and selfhood's sustaining prin- 
ciple, the leader, who grows naturally, 
as a function of the group. Woman 

The Lesbian: The Workmaker, The Leader/17 


18/ 'Quest 

corrupted fagain, Medea) is the cor- 
ruption of this process, symbolically- 
and literally-shown in her sexual al- 
liance with the man: Medea, the 
"matriarchal" principle, is literally 
fucked-thereby politically fucked-over 
-by the ascendant patriarchy. Athena, 
without a mother-therefore without 
"flesh"-is woman as male intellectual 
reasoning would have her; Medea, 
another prototype of the "man's wo- 
man," is divested of her "mother"-- 
her flesh, her culture, her history- 
through heterosexual intercourse. Pre- 
Olympian (or "matriarchal") myth is 
the story spoken over a ritual of the 
"real, " i.e., the group's collective as- 
sessment and projection of their reality. 
Olympian (or patriarchal) myth is not 
myth but propagandists episodes fash- 
ioned to disguise the destruction of the 
"real" and the rituals which are its 
demonstration of reality. 

Dionysus Re-Interpreted 

A case has been made by psycho- 
logists and anthropologists to show 
that the patriarchal overthrow of "wo- 
man" is an on-going human develop- 
ment essential to work-making: intel- 
lectual endeavor, artistic creation, me- 
chanical invention. Such interpretation 
is based on observations of "womb-en- 
vy" in primitive males. At some 
stage, the primitive recognizes that it is 
woman who has ultimate power over 

"Primitive" here means as opposed to 
"sophisticated"-not the opposite of "civi- 
lized". A four-year old Twentieth Century 
New York City male is a "primitive". 

life— she bleeds but does not die; she 
reproduces herself; her body gives 
food. The male's envy of female pro- 
creation urges him to compensate by 
becoming sole owner of the power to 
achieve intellectually. Thus the creative 
process or the work-making process— 
which springs from the impulse to 
make a thing which is, in its final 
utterance, both a phenomenon of the 
self and distinct from the self-is de- 
clared analagous to the generative 
event in the womb. The woman labors 
and makes the child. The man labors 
and makes idea, or thing. Since the 
production of children is exclusively 
the province of the female, the pro- 
duction of work and thought must be 
the exclusive (and jealously guarded) 
province of the male. 

Not content to divest women of 
their brains, the Olympian Zeus, patri- 
archy's chief, must also have their 
wombs. Total ownership of both mind 
and body-and the functions and pro- 
ducts of both-accomplishes an her- 
metically sealed power block. In order 
to get a womb to go with his brain, 
Zeus had to steal Dionysus who was 
central to the pre-patriarchal world- 
view, since the god portrayed the 
group's meaning of virtue, potency, 
power, imagination: in short, Dionysus 
was the cornerstone of the ritual pro- 
jection of group identity. The massive 
task of over-throwing mother-rule and 
establishing father-rule is begun by 
distorting the images and meaning of 
Dionysus. The effects of such an 
achievement are comparable to the 
effects of a cerebral lobotomy; or, 

The Lesbian: The Workmaker, The Leader/19 

more recently, the effects of behav- 
ioral modification on personality: the 
erasure of the original self is all-per- 
vasive. Even the memory of the orig- 
inal is removed-but if a trace remains, 
it remains as the "bad," the un- 
adapted and therefore criminal element 
in the new order. Thus the pre-patri- 
archal ritual of selfhood is eliminated 
by a self-conscious political effort to 
make change. New "ritual" and "myth" 
are provided to explain the change and 
support the new images of power. 
What is "self is redefined; what does 
not conform to the new definition is 

It is as difficult to describe the 
original meanings and impact of Dion- 
ysus as it is to describe the culture 
that created the god. In brief, Dion- 
ysus with the mother is an image of 
what we might call "the pleasure prin- 
ciple" - a recognition and acceptance 
of the irrational; an idea of freedom; 
a dream of liberation: an enactment 
of the psychic through the flesh. Our 
difficulty in understanding Dionysian 
meaning-our fear of its potential-is, 
above all, an index to how much it 
has been excised from our reality. 
Politically expressed, pre - Olympian 
(or matriarchal) myth, and the culture 
it reflects, shows us the powerful 
unions of what is guessed to be 
mothers and sons against the father. ° 
Olympian myth, referring to patri- 
archal origins, shows us the devasta- 
tion of the mother by the father 
especially through its interruption of 
the mother-child alliance. ' 

Commonly, the story goes that 

Zeus seduces and impregnates Semele. 
She bears a son-half divine, half-mor- 
tal-who is Dionysus. With his moth- 
er, Dionysus grows into the vigorous 
spirit of the young kouros: the in- 
itiate. The Semele/Dionysus unity is 
the mythic rendition of the group's 
political fact-mother/child— one which 
the new Olympian order must destroy 
if the rule of father/child is to be 
inexorably established. Aided by Hera, 
his wife— who is another manifestation 
of the new man's woman-Zeus kills 
Semele and calls Dionysus to himself, 
to be born again. Zeus steals not only 
the sacred qualities Dionysus, with 
Semele, represents; he also approp- 
riates the functions of the old ritual: 
ensurance of fertility, group continu- 
ance, life-without-end— whose model is 
the birth of the child from the womb. 
"Come, O Dithyrambos..." he calls; 
"be born again from this my male 
womb. "8 And Dionysus is renamed 
Dithyrambos and reshaped in the male 
image: the power of the womb is 
translated into the power of the phal- 

The figure of speech assigned to 
this event is Mimesis. Mimesis means 
an imitation of the alien; a process 
whereby the words, actions, behavior 
of another are imitated. Patriarchal 
power is fixed centrally in this mimetic 
event, the Second Birth of the child 
Dionysus from the thigh of Zeus: it 
shows that the first maternal birth 
is inadequate for individual and group 
survival; it shows that the life of the 
group will henceforth depend upon the 
death of the mother and the uninter- 


rupted union of father and son, male 
with male. Furthermore, the Second 
Birth-the original mimetic event-shows 
the patriarchal definition of how work 
happens: to imitate is consciously 
to make a thing, to make something 
happen. "Dithrambos" is the name 
Zeus gives Dionysus during the Second 
Birth-and Dithyramb >os is the Greek 
name of the first art form, the name 
of tragedy." Thus we are shown the 
patriarchal division between the male 
active agent-the maker, doer, worker 
-and the female nurturer, who is acted 
upon. The mother is no longer even re- 
sponsible for the birth of the child: 
the myth shows that childbirth is 
not a creative act for woman; rather 
that childbirth is the act of the child, 
who uses the mother as the passive 
vehicle through which it brings itself to 
birth, to the ultimate birth which is 
the union with the father. 

Such is the status of womankind as 
the myth-and reality— express it; and 
such is the status of womankind as we 
know it, in the ritual slaughters of the 
mother that patriarchy continues to 
devise. Woman is used as the inarticu- 
late receptacle for the projection of 
the raw material. Man performs as the 
stimulus for the metamorphosis of 
blind instinct into sighted intelligence 
and accomplishment. 

But to understand mimesis solely 
as imitation of the alien is to ignore its 
political meanings. The events of the 
Second Birth are more than masculine 
imitation of a foreign process: the 
Second Birth is also a take-over of the 
alien-a political stratagem designed to 

show the male ability to assimilate 
nature into science, "soul" into mind, 
powerlessness (barefoot and pregnant) 
into power (penis and womb); and in 
so doing demonstrate the superiority 
of things male over things female. 
Observing the cultural magnitude of 
the first birth, appreciating its political 
potential— and, even more significantly, 
recognizing the fact that delivering a 
child, while it is intrinsically the most 
important human act is also the hu- 
man act most noticeably devoid of 
intellectual choice-man steals it and 
makes it his own: the Second Birth is 
the birth of intellectual process, of 
consciousness, of the ability to man- 
ipulate feeling into thought. 

The Lesbian as Dionysus 

The truth of the matter-and of the 
myth-is based in the child that is 
born, not in the childbearers— neither 
of them. It is the child, and the 
independent action, energy and pur- 
posefulness of the child— both as bio- 
logical fact and as metaphor— who is 
the source of power. The child's nat- 
ure is that of neither man nor woman, 
but is the nature of the lesbian: born 
of woman, she consciously rejects 
being a woman-because she does not 
want to die: to be unable to work is to 
be dead; the "man's woman," because 
of what has happened to her below the 
waist, is dead above the neck. The les- 
bian - her daughter - wants to make 
something happen; choosing life, she 
wants to make work. Although nursed 
in the cradle of heterosexual influence, 

The Lesbian: The Workmaker, The Leader/21 

the lesbian wills her own manifestation 
of independence from both man and 
woman; from both womb and phallus. 

The human model for work-mak- 
ing, therefore, should be neither the 
unconsciousness of the father, but the 
use of both by the child to make first 
herself, then the work. Thus it is 
impossible for woman qua woman and 
man qua man to make work. Hetero- 
sexual organization— whether matriar- 
chal or patriarchal-is no more than 
the providing of certain conditions 
in which the work-maker, the lesbian, 
can bring herself to birth. 

The lesbian is neither woman nor 
man; she is a new, separate creature, a 
lesbian. Women have tried to dismiss 
the control of the mimetic principle 
by pretending it has, especially aided 
by the Women's Movement, lost its 
potency. Created in Opposition to the 
myth, as revolt, the women's move- 
ment to great extent seeks to rid it- 
self of patriarchal infection by attempt- 
ing to find a "womanly" way of 
doing things-e.g., attempting non-struc- 
tured organization, resisting leadership, 
resisting power; in extreme instances 
advancing separatism as an end-goal of 
purification. What the movement has 
not generally recognized-but what 
patriarchy has known all along-show- 
ing us its knowledge in the myth-is 
that the more a woman works, and 
works to make things happen, the less 
"woman" she becomes, the more les- 
bian: the more like the Dionysus 
of the Second Birth— without, however, 
the significant feature of the mimetic 
"father - birth"- male -bonding. Patri- 

archy, by inducing fear of the lesbian, 
induces fear of work in all women. 
Such terrorization has commonly in- 
duced women in the movement to 
attempt to render real the principle of 
methexsislO -which is the matriarchal, 
"womanly" opposite of the patriarchal 
principle of mimesis. 

As the mimetic rite (as it is ordin- 
arily understood) expresses the prin- 
ciples of patriarchy— the purification 
of the male of female infection, the 
bonding of male with male in a do- 
minion of adult power— so methexsis 
is its opposite: the embodiment of 
matriarchal principle; the utterance of 
the group instead of the one; the pro- 
jection of emotional solidarity, group 
oneness, a strong sense of difference 
from other groups. Essentially, meth- 
exsis describes a totemistic social or- 
ganization, which matriarchal society 
may have been. Inherent to such 
group organization are three great 
fears: 1.) the coming of differentiated 
thinking which, combined with passion 
and intellectual purpose, will lead to 
unique self-expression, and to a piece 
of work that is of the group but 
brought into being by a separate self- 
assertiveness; 2.) that, as a result, the 
felt continuity of the group as a whole 
will be interrupted; and, 3.) that if 
one member of the group becomes 
distinct, the rest of the group will be- 
come obscure. 11 

The distinction of one person is 
evidenced to the group by the pro- 
duction of work which is uniquely her 
own creation-no matter what area it is 
in: leadership, for example, is the 


The Lesbian: The Workmaker, The Leader/23 

showing of distinguish ably individual 
work. The member of the group who, 
by making work, begins to move from 
the felt to the thought is no longer 
permitted the emotional benefits of 
group life: the member becomes out- 
cast. She has attempted imitation of 
the alien; she has caused the death of 
the "mother." Within the context of 
the myth, the worker, the woman-be- 
coming-lesbian through the sacred pas- 
sage of the Second Birth, operates 
under a triple burden: in order to 
achieve the Second Birth, mimesis, 
she must necessarily undergo a first 
"second birth:" her first imitation of 
the alien must be imitation of man, i.e., 
her "drag" must reach beneath the 
skin, must entail arduous psycho- 
logical recostuming. Then she must 
undergo the ritual of authentication; 
she must be tested by those who know 
she is not really one of them (she may 
be assuming power, but she lacks the 
essential symbol of power, the phal- 
lus). Presuming she survives these tests, 
she is alone: by making work (outside 
the prescribed labors of the female 
role), she has ceased being a woman; 
she has transgressed against the com- 
munity agreement not to work; she 
has declared the existence of sepa- 
ration between subject and object-she 
has ceased being a woman, but she is 
not a man; nor would she choose to 
be man. 

The principle of methexsis has 
been called into being by the move- 
ment because, seemingly, there is no 
other non-patriarchal model, nothing 
to choose but isolation within the 

patriarchy or smothering in the em- 
brace of the community. For the les- 
bian—the woman who works, who 
moves-as does the infant Dionysus in 
the birth journey— to a completion of 
herself in work, as work, the either/or 
situation-because it is heterosexual 
and therefore antithetical to work-is 
unbearable. She is not heterosexual; 
heterosexuality is about a union of 
one man, the father, with the "man's 
woman," the mother; she is the child, 
who is the lesbian. She is full of the 
Dionysian ecstacy that comes from 
her birth, her origin with women; she 
is full of the necessities of the mind 
from her venture toward work-making 
-necessities that are described as male- 
-but she is neither totally the woman 
nor the man. 

Ideally, the lesbian, the worker, en- 
acts the life -long role of the kouros, 
the youth-nearly androgynous in its 
ability to shift from shape to shape,! 2 
from gender-always engaged, by virtue 
of her eroticism-that integrating link 
between the psychic and the sexual-in 
initiation. She is always, by virtue of 
her eroticism, refusing to participate in 
the condition known as womanhood. 
For womanhood, as the myth demon- 
strates, is an inadequate vehicle for 
creativity. No wonder,within the myth, 
is the woman denied even her bio- 
logically "creative" status; even, like 
Semele, is murdered for childbearing. 
In truth, she is only the host on whom 
the parasite feeds, as every honest 
mother knows. The woman,*** she 
who chooses to be acted upon, re- 
fusing the erotic individuation of ac- 


tion as work— must resign herself to 
death; but she must not take the 
group-and self-propelled power that is 
her daughter with her. And the les- 
bian, the worker, must use and then 
reject the mother-just as she uses and 
rejects that which is father. The lesbian 
who attempts identification with the 
general condition of women-at least as 
it is expressed as movement-methexsis 
-is assuming that biological sameness 
reflects emotional, psychic, and intel- 
lectual sameness: as disastrous a mis- 
take as believing that to give birth is 
actively to make something. 

The women's movement turns a- 
gainst the Dionysiac leader ("ripoff!" 
"male-identified! '-although sometimes 
patriarchal circumstance forces truth 
into these accusations) because its 
members cannot imagine attempting 
to be anything more than woman: if 
the group cannot go forward, then no 
member of the group, representing the 
group, can go forward. She who makes 
the attempt is ritually slaughtered for 
expressing that stage of development 
which the group as a whole either will 
not or cannot grow to. One of the 
ways the movement expresses this is 
by maintaining that there is no such 
thing as the "exceptional woman." In 
fact, there is no such thing as an ex- 
ceptional woman who can live, un- 

Some lesbians whose psychology is 
totemistic rather than Dionysian- whose be- 
havior is based in fear rather than challenge 
of the male belong to this class of woman 
or ''mother;" others hope to become the 
"father"— but without experiencing the Di- 
onysian transition. 

damaged by mother or father, move- 
ment or man, through the hetero- 
sexual enforcement of the myth. 

Woman is not mistaken when she 
tries to make a way to bring herself to 
birth as effectively as man believes he 
has; nor is she mistaken when, having 
suffered the effects of the male order, 
she does not wish to imitate that 
abortive birth passage. But she is ter- 
ribly mistaken if, in understandably 
returning to the pre-mimetic organi- 
zation in revolt against her treatment, 
she does not allow her exception, the 
leader who is of the group but also 
goes beyond it, a way to make her 

A re-interpretation of the meth- 
ectic/mimetic dilema for women at 
large-for the exceptional, work-mak- 
ing lesbian, in particular— involves a re- 
interpretation of the nature of Dion- 
ysus—one that lies beyond the intent 
of either the matriarchal or the patri- 
archal. As Dionysus, the lesbian, the 
worker, is neither man nor woman: 
she is a new creature not to be defined 
by either gender or by "socializa- 
tion" effects— but by the work she is 
and makes. By virtue of her eroticism 
she does not naturally share in the 
common heterosexual lot of either 
man or woman. Like Dionysus, her 
specifics are androgynous. Central to 
Dionysus is the god's close association 
with the mother, Semele-an associa- 
tion so close that the male and female 
figures blend, so close that there can 
be seen as little organic distinction be- 
tween the female mother and the 
"male" child as there can be between 

The Lesbian: The Workmaker, The Leader/25 

the earth and the fruits of the earth. 
Gender identification collapses., At the 
most profound level of the matriarchal 
rites, Semele is only another guise for 
Dionysus; and Dionysus another guise 
for Semele. In this, the god's begin- 
ning, there is a kind of ecstacy of 
equality 13 similar to that achieved by 
perfectly matched lovers. A sense of 
this Semele-Dionysus lover relation- 
ship, recaptured, is the hope of the 
"mother;" its achievement an appro- 
priate goal for women. For the fact of 
the myth is unalterable: Dionysus 
must go, change must be made, a new 
development of woman representing 
thought and work must happen. But 
there can be loss without the detri- 
ment of loss: Dionysus carries to the 
thigh of Zeus the intoxicated spirit of 
the group sacrament which is woman, 
which is mother. For women to accept 
the patriarchal lie that Dionysus' trans- 
ition to the Second Birth makes the 
god male, is fatal; is to agree to the 
death that Zeus, that patriarchy, wishes 
on her. Imagined by the group, the 
group's leader is the group as inevitably 
as she is her own differentiated self. As 
long as Dionysus-the leader, the daugh- 
ter, the work-maker—lives, the group 
will not die: the daughter freed to 
work will inevitably express-resurrect— 
the mother killed by the father. 

To prevent work is to prevent 
freedom-of both "mother" and daugh- 
ter. It is in the interests of patriarchy 
to prevent the lesbian, who has the po- 
tential of freedom greater than wo- 
man's was or man's is-the freedom of 
Dionysus: the early reality of ecstacy 

the myth identifies as female; the later 
reality of intellectual birth the myth 
identifies as male— the ultimate free- 
dom, as these first two births merge 
and together make the transcendant 
third birth: the birth of the genderless 
work-maker and work-giver, the les- 
bian; Dionysus. 

For the lesbian to join with the nur- 
sing spirit of the matriarchy is to col- 
lapse back into the non-productive, 
the anti-intellectual; the cradle from 
which thought will inevitably-and dis- 
astrously—be sent forth in male form. 
To identify wholly with the male 
expression is to deny the principle of 
rapture the myth shows as undeniably 
female-and which, equally with the 
intellect, is the wellspring of the work. 
In Dionysus are inextricably united 
both mana and tabu— both magic and 
the manipulation of magic-the "dou- 
ble-edged sanctity," as Jane Ellen 
Harrison remarks it. To this Diony- 
sian expression of the better-than-the- 
best-of-both-worlds, belongs the les- 
bian, the worker, the maker, the doer- 
to whom no gender can be assigned. 

Like Dionysus, the lesbian, the 
woman-as-worker, must be permitted 
birth, must be allowed to emerge from 
the collective spirit. And the group 
must realize-as do the Bacchants and 
Maenads (the mothers and nurses of 
Dionysus)-that their group reality and 
emotion has fostered the essential stuff 
from which the leader, will happen- 
and delight in their own participation 
in the founding of "things done." And 
the lesbian, the worker, must never be 
deceived that in undertaking the sacred 


passage of the Second Birth that she is 
becoming male: that by expressing her- 
self as work, a person and a thing apart 
from mother/woman, she is in contrast 
father/man. Dionysus is never mature 
in the patriarchal sense. The god's use 
of the phallus does not make the god 
phallic. Dionysus is entirely complete 
in the full maturity of the lesbian, who 
is the work that was woman's intention 
at last accomplished. 


1 Stanley Edgar Hyman, "The Ritual 
View of Myth and the Mythic" (citing 
Harrison, Iliemis), p. 138. 

^Hyman, p. 138. The Greek definition 
of myth (citing Harrison). 


4 A dramatic trilogy by Aeschylus: Aga- 
memnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides, 
dated about 458 B.C., and clearly showing 
the political shift to patriarchy. 

^Orestes is being pursued by the Furies 
because he has murdered his mother, Cly- 
temnestra, to "avenge" Clytcmnestra's mur- 
der of his father, Agamemnon. Agamemnon 
himself has begun the whole process by 
ritually slaughtering his and Clytcmnestra's 
daughter, Iphigenia. Under matriarchal jus- 
tice only Clytemnestra's revenge of her 
daughter's death is lawful. For a full ac- 
count of the the Furics/Eumcnides' role, 
see "The Furies" by Ginny Berson, Lesbian- 
ism and the Women's Movement, Baltimore: 
Diana Press, 1975, p. 15. 

°Sarah B. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, 
Wives, And Slaves, pp. 2-3. 

?As in the comparatively recent version 
of the patriarchal restructuring of the myth, 
which shows the Father, Son, and Holy 
Ghost versus Jesus (Christ) and Mary (Vir- 

"Jane Ellen Harrison, Themis, pp. 34-35; 
referring to the use of the Dithyramb in 

The Bacchae and its reflection of initiation 


10 Harrison, pp. 125-129. 


12 Youth is passion and pleasure in dis- 
covery; a development of discovery into 
work; a continuous process of initiation: 
"One secret of the thrill of The Bacchae is 
that the god is always shifting his shape. 
Dionysus is a human youth, lovely, with 
curled hair, but in a moment he [sic] is a 
Snake, a Lion, a Wild Bull, a Burning 
Flame." (Harrison, p. 129). 

1-^Zeus attempts to imitate the "lover- 
equality" of the original myth by substitu- 
ting the non-erotic-but highly sexual-power 
exchange of male-bonding with Dionysus 
in the Second Birth. 


Bidney, David. "Myth, Symbolism, and 
Truth," Myth, A Symposium, Thomas A. 
Sebeok, cd. Bloomington: Indiana Univer- 
sity Press, 1972. 

Cassirer, Ernst. Language and Myth, 
New York: Dover, 1953. 

Euripides. The Bacchae, Philip Vella- 
cott, trans. Baltimore: Penguin, 1954. 

. Medea, Arthur S. Way, trans. 

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1947. 

Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths: 1. 
Baltimore: Pelican, 1971. 

Harrison, Jane Ellen. Themis, A Study 
of the Social Origins of the Greek Religion. 
Gloucester, Mass: Peter Smith, 1974. (First 
published, 1912.) 

Hyman, Stanley Edgar. "The Ritual 
View of Myth and the Mythic," Myth, A 
Symposium, Thomas A. Sebeok, ed. Bloom- 
ington: Indiana University Press, 1972. 

Jung, C.G. and Kerenyi, C. Ussays on a 
Science of Mythology (The Myth of the 
Divine Child and the Mysteries of Eleusis). 
Princeton: Bollingen Series XXII, 1971. 

Pomeroy, Sarah B. Goddesses, Whores, 
Wives, And Slaves. New York: Schocken, 

The Lesbian: The Workmaker, The Leader/27 

Rank, Otto. The Myth of the Birth of 
the Hero (and other writings). Philip Frcund, 
ed. New York: Vintage [n.d. ] 

Slater, Philip E. The Glory of Hera 
(Greek Mythology and the Greek Family). 
Boston: Beacon, 1968. 

Bertha Harris, author of three novels, 
Catching Saradove, Confessions of 
Cherubino, and Lover (Daughters, Inc. 
1976), is director of Women's Studies 
at Richmond College, N. Y.C. 

Don't be lea* astray . . . 
Renew your Quest! 


If your mailing label begins with 2-4, your subscription expires 
with this issue! 

If you haven't sent in your renewal, please fill out the flap 
coupon on the title page and return with your $9.00 check today. 
Renewals received too late will miss the Kaleidoscope issue and 
must begin as a new subscription starting with the next issue. 



( €an't a HaU0n 


There was a time when I knew 
what a leader was, how he acted, 
and what he looked like. When I 
was six years old, a leader was a man 
like Robin Hood. He was a leader 
because he robbed from the rich and 
gave to the poor, led a band of 
merry men, lived in the forest, and 
was always very brave. And he had 
a girl friend, too. Her name was 
Maid Marion and she wore long dresses 
and stayed home taking care of the 
castle. She was very loyal. 

When I was eight, I knew what 

a leader was. He was a man like 
Jesus Christ. Jesus was a leader 
because he was the savior of mankind, 
and he led a band of not-so-merry 
men. Christ lived in the desert, defied 
a ruthless government, and was always 
very brave. While he didn't exactly 
have a girlfriend, he did have an ador- 
ing follower named Mary Magdalen. 
She was a whore who washed his 
feet with her hair. 

As the years went by, my concep- 
tion of leadership really didn't change 
much. And my concept of girlfriends 

by Lorraine Masterson 

photographs by Sunny Wood 

Feminist Leaders Can't Walk on Water/29 

remained virtually unaltered. JFK 
and his Jacqueline were succeeded 
by Norman Mailer and his American 
Dream. The last time I knew what 
a leader looked like was in 1968. He 
looked like Eugene McCarthy and 
he was going to change the shape 
of US politics. McCarthy had a wife. 
I forget her name, but I remember 
that she was "cute, petite, blonde and 
an inexhaustible campaign worker." 

I think it was just about 1968 when 
I suffered the first major challenge 
to my concept of what a leader looked 
like. It was seriously shaken when I 
read The Second Sex, published for 
the first time when 1 was only five 
years old. In it, I confronted an image 
of myself I had denied for a lifetime. 
Simone de Beauvoir's book was an 
accusation; the words shrieked off 
every burning page. "You are a 
woman too," the book told me, "not 
just physiologically, but psychologically 
and spiritually; in your dreams, in 
your love affairs, you are a woman." 

It was not easy to confront the 
fact that not just my breasts and 
vagina are female: so is my head, 
my soul, my entire history. In retro- 
spect, this self-revelation strikes me as 
painfully obvious, but at that time 
time in my life it had repercussions 
I'm still trying to deal with. One 
of them was the sudden recognition 
that all those years I'd spent trudging 
through the woods with a bow and 
arrow, or standing in the middle of 
a two-inch deep stream with a sheet 
wrapped around me pretending I was 
walking on water, didn't mean any- 

thing at all. I wasn't Robin Hood or 
Jesus Christ. And I certainly wasn't 
Norman Mailer or JFK. I couldn't 
even be one of the merry men who 
followed these people around. Instead, 
I was relegated to the role of the 
girlfriend, the whore, the cheerleader, 
or the fantasy lover. I was fated to 
become one of those people I had, 
until then, dismissed and despised. 

This traumatic discovery precipita- 
ted the second phase of my courtship 
of the elusive image of the leader. 
I now had to try to reconcile the 
apparently conflicting images of the 
leader and the female. I was still pon- 
dering this question when my under- 
graduate days drew to a close. 

In 1970, I left Massachusetts to 
pursue the life of a ski bum out in 
Colorado. I picked up a job as a 
restaurant manager and found myself 
confusedly practicing a mixed bag of 
management styles that seemed to 
have little to do with the romantic 
vision of leadership that had haunted 
my youth. 

One of my most dramatic experi- 
ences with the problems of leadership, 
particularly female leadership, occurred 
only a week after I took charge. I 
faced a trio of angry chefs (all white, 
male and older than I) who demanded 
that I stop taking the side of the 
waitresses. What had I done that 
precipitated this crisis? I had sug- 
gested that the waitresses meet weekly 
with me to discuss service problems 
arising in the dining room. Then and 
there I developed my first theory of 
leadership-a leader is someone who 

30/Quest, vol. II no. 4, spring, 1976 

can mediate in rough situations. But 
my chefs were already telling me that 
as a woman leader I was automatically 
biased in favor of women. 

Leadership and the Status Quo 

When I returned to graduate school, 
the first course I signed up for was a 
course that discussed leadership. The 
first thing 1 learned was that the 
images of leaders that had carried me 
through my youth were all wet. Lead- 
ership, I was told, is dependent upon 
the specific context in which it arises, 
and the style of leadership must alter 
depending upon the "maturity level" 
of the group. "Ahah," I thought, 
remembering images of Robin Hood 
and realizing that he would have looked 
pretty silly in a tuxedo holding Jackie's 
hand at a White House reception, 

"of course we need different leaders 
for different situations!" 

Maturity in terms of leadership was 
defined as: ". . . achievement motiva- 
tion, the willingness and ability to 
take responsibility, and task relevant 
education and experience of an in- 
dividual of group." While I found 
the definition of maturity interesting, 
it failed to explain the problems I'd 
had with my chefs out in Colorado. 
Those indignant white, male chefs had 
considerable task relevant education 
and experience; it was their socio- 
cultural education, their views ofwom- 
en-that had little or nothing to do 
with the task-that made leadership 
difficult for me. 

I eagerly plunged into the numerous 
case studies assigned for the course. 
The studies discussed the problems of 
male leaders in charge of other males ; 

Feminist Leaders Can't Walk on Water/31 

in short, despite the his/her pronoun 
fashionably introduced into some of 
the recent handouts, only one of the 
recommended books for the course 
was co-authored by a woman; the 
message came through loud and clear 
that there were no women in leader- 
ship positions, and damn few in the 
band of merry men. 

Still hoping that me-the-woman and 
me-the-leader could be reconciled, I 
turned to the new courses on "Women 
in Management" or "Women in Leader- 
ship Roles" that were springing up 
across the country to find a solu- 
tion to the problem described by 
Simone de Beauvoir: 
It must be said that the independent 
woman is justifiably disturbed by the 
idea that people do not have con- 
fidence in her. As a general rule, 
the superior caste is hostile to new- 
comers from the inferior caste: whites 
will not consult a Negro physician, 
nor males a woman doctor; but in- 
dividuals of the inferior caste, imbued 
with a sense of their specific inferiority 
and often full of resentment toward 
one of their kind who has risen above 
their usual lot, will also prefer to 
turn to the masters. Most women, 
in particular, steeped in adoration 
for man, eagerly seek him out in the 
person of the doctor, the lawyer, 
the office manager and so on. Neither 
men nor women like to be under a 
woman's orders. 

At these workshops and confer- 
ences, I garnered a great many inter- 
esting and valuable tips for the woman 
who wanted to make it as a leader-at 

least as a leader in American business. 
I learned that in order to get to the 
same job level a man occupied, I had 
to be twice as smart as he, and work 
twice as hard. I learned that I had to 
tap into the office gossip system and 
keep track of who was sleeping with 
whom in the office. I learned that I 
should never sleep with anybody in 
the office, no matter how attracted 
to her/him I was. I learned that 
I must dress "attractively" without 
being "sexy"; that I must never burst 
into tears in front of my male col- 
leagues; that I had to learn more about 
finances and profit because that is 
the area where we women seriously 
lack skills. I learned that I should 
stay away from Women's Liberation- 
ists, who "are the female equivalents 
of bomb-throwingTV freaks like Abbie 
Hoffman. . . .they're just the lunatic 

Another book I read in my search 
to find the secret to successful leader- 
ship in the American business world 
urged me to look for ways to "fem- 
inize" a job, and find the "woman's 
angle." The idea of feminizing leader- 
ship was beginning to make more and 
more sense to me. 

Feminist Leadership and 
Positions of Power 

During this time, I was beginning 
to discover different kinds of leaders 
in different places. I began to form 
a different image when I used the word 
"leader"-an image that looked noth- 
ing like that recalled from my younger 


days. I began to think about women 
like Bella Abzug, Joanne Little, Elaine 
Noble, Shulamith Firestone, Rita Mae 
Brown, Simone de Beauvoir and hun- 
dreds of others who are leaders in a 
sense different from any I've ever 
known. These women are part of a 
new leadership that I have started to 
call feminist leadership. 

I think I recognized this new fem- 
inist leadership for the first time when 
I read a press release written by 
Ti-Grace Atkinson describing her rea- 
sons for resigning the presidency of 
the New York chapter of NOW: 
We want to destroy the positions of 
power. To alter the condition oj 
women involves the shifting of over 
half the population. We complain 
about the unequal power relationships 
between mefi and women. To change 
that relationship requires a redefinition 
of humanity, of all the relationships 
within humantiy. We want to get 
rid of positions of power, not get up 
into those positions. The fight against 
unequal power relationships between 
men and womeii yiecessitates fighting 
unequal power everyplace: between 
men and women (for feminists espe- 
cially), but also betweoi men and men, 
women and women, between black 
and white, and rich and poor. 

What kind of leadership, if we 
can even call it leadership, can be 
found in a world where we have 
"destroyed the positions of power"? 
Many of us have learned from experi- 
ence that unstructured groups are not 
an alternative to hierarchical, leader- 
dominated groups. We've seen that 

the lack of a formal structure simply 
leads to an informal structure that is 
often more manipulative and unscru- 
pulous than any overt form of control. 
The issue becomes one of determining 
the best means to encourage women 
to stop being either followers or lead- 
ers, to ". . . unlearn passivity (to 
eliminate 'followers'), and to share 
special skills or knowledge (to avoid 
'leaders')." 7 

While I see the need to destroy 
existing leader/follower relationships, 
I think we confront the problem of 
encouraging every woman to under- 
stand that she must be her own 
leader, and that in doing so, she can 
become an inspiration to other wom- 
en. A new feminst leadership can 
provide all women with the courage 
and guidance needed in order to grow 
stronger. 1 want to do away not with 
leadership, but with a kind of leader- 
ship that controls because it takes 
its own superiority for granted. 

One of the special qualities that 
distinguishes feminist leadership from 
traditional leadership is its essentially 
educational nature. If we as women 
are working to create a world in 
which power and responsibility are 
shared by all people, then we must 
understand the process by which people 
become leaders, and thereby lead our- 
selves and each other toward that goal. 

We know we are most human in 
those moments when we are taking 
control of our own lives and expressing 
ourselves freely. The chasm between 
the personal and the political begins 
as a tiny crack the first time we 

Feminist Leaders Can't Walk on Water/33 

decide not to say something important 
to us because it would "waste every- 
one's time." It isn't long before we 
have forgotten the joy of controlling 
our own lives. 

This tendency to deny the indivi- 
dual-in ourselves and others-creates a 
world of leaders and followers. We 
learn to listen to "the little voice of 
shame that makes us wait for someone 
else to speak first, to get a direction 

from someone else. Here is where 
. . . power gets lost every minute in 
all our social institutions, in all the 
behavioral roles we accept just to live 
from day to day." 

If the world feminists want to 
create is one in which the personal 
and the political have been united, 
in which women, children and men 
can always experience the freedom and 
responsibility of controlling their own 


lives, we must first ask ourselves what 
is the process an individual must ex- 
perience before she even wants to 
become the only leader of her life. 
Once we've identified the process, we 
can identify the feminist leader as one 
who helps an individual go through it. 

Freire's Leadership Model 

Paulo Freire is a Brazilian educator 
who taught illiterate peasants how to 
read and write, and in doing so, 
helped them begin to take control of 
their world. He believes that as 

conscious human beings, we exist in a 
state of dynamic interaction with our 
environment. We act on the world and 
transform it, and are in turn affected 
by our changed environment. 

However, the experience of oppres- 
sion creates a situation in which the 
"oppressive reality absorbs those with- 
in it." Submerged in oppression, 
people forget that social reality is 
created by human beings and therefore 
can be altered by human beings. The 
crippling social reality created by an 
oppressive system communicates to 
people that they are the victims of 
an unalterable world order. Fatalism, 
apathy, passivity, and despair are the 
inevitable results reflected in phrases 
like, "It's always been like this; it 
can't be changed." 

The fatalism and passivity engen- 
dered by oppression also allow the 
oppressed to internalize a self-denig- 
rating image made up of the percep- 
tions and assumptions of the oppressor: 
if she weren't an inferior being, she 

wouldn't be in this terrible situation. 

The tendency to adopt the oppres- 
sors' values is another characteristic of 
the oppressed individual at this level 
of consciousness. It means that 

the oppressed idolize not only the 
power of the oppressor, but also want 
his respect and admire his personality, 
appearance, and values. The oppressor 
becomes everyone's model of human- 
ity, and thus a woman glows with 
pride when she is told that she "thinks 
like a man." Thus though Freire 
developed his theory of oppression 
through working in Brazil, it fits the 
attitudes of pre-conscious women in 
America very well. 

The only way to emerge from an 
oppressive reality is through a process 
that Freire terms "praxis: reflection 
and action upon the world in order to 
transform it. "12 The first step toward 
praxis occurs when people begin to 
understand that they have been victims 
of an oppressive social reality, and 
cease to blame themselves for their 
positions within it. The oppressed 
individual begins to assert Her identity 
in her own terms, rather than simply 
imitating the oppressor. 

Consciousness-raising groups have 
provided women with the opportunity 
to explore and create a feminist iden- 
tity apart from the definitions of 
women created by men. Women have 
begun to explore the sources of their 
oppression and worked to establish a 
new woman-identified image of them- 
selves. The praxis has begun, but 
we must do more than reflect upon our 
social reality: we must act upon it. 

Feminist Leaders Can't Walk on Water/35 

Through praxis, we commit our- 
selves to transforming our social real- 
ity, and reach a state of 'critical 
consciousness' characterized by rethink- 
ing which perceives reality as process, 
as transformation . . . thinking which 
does not separate itself from action. . . ." 
Freire terms a leadership which can 
help oppressed people progress to 
critical consciousness, "revolutionary 
leadership." 1 ^ 

The Oppression of Women: 
The Lost Identity 

Trying to develop a critical con- 
sciousness is an extraordinarily difficult 
task. Freire, through his work with 
Third World people, recognized that 
oppression reduced people to objects 
blind to their own ability to transform 
reality. Yet they can recognize the 
historical process which created their 
oppression and can move toward crit- 
ical consciousness. This, however, is 
considerably more difficult in the case 
of women. At all times and in all 
cultures, we have been treated as 
objects, as the "inessential other"; 
in every culture, we are invented by 
men just as the oppressor always in- 
vents the oppressed-by attributing to 
the oppressed traits and qualities that 
justify their oppression. But because 
our oppression is grounded in our 
physiology rather than in historical 
accident, it is more difficult for us to 
see that it does indeed result from 
historical process. While the oppres- 
sion of the Third World has its basis in 
economics, and was later justified by 

stereotypes and myths, the oppression 
of women seems to be a condition 
which came out of the mist of prime- 
val human history. 

Because the oppression of women 
goes as deep as human culture itself, 
the feminist revolutionary leader must 
be willing to pursue the origins of her 
own oppression into the realm of 
mythology, spirituality, and philoso- 
phy. Because our oppression is based 
on physiology, adhesion to the values 
of the oppressor can take a particularly 
virulent form of self-hatred in women. 
In our devotion to the male oppressor 
we cannot help but come to view 
our own bodies as that part of our- 
selves which prevents us from assuming 
the oppressor's superior role. We come 
to see our bodies as loathsome and 

If acting upon and transforming 
the world is the essence of human 
freedom, then we who are defined 
as 'object' are prevented from taking 
responsibility for our lives and are 
denied our humanity. In other words, 
the norm for humanity is the same 
as the norm for the male; women are 
something other than the norm-and 
have been defined by just those traits 
that deviate from the "human" norm. 1 4 
"In actuality, the relation of the two 
sexes is not quite like that of two 
electrical poles, for man represents 
both the positive and the neutral, 
as is indicated by the common use 
of 'man' to designate human beings in 
general whereas woman represents only 
the negative, defined by limiting cri- 
teria, without reciprocity. . . ."15 


What, then, is the real nature of 
the female half of the human race? 
And how do we, as women, after all 
these thousands of years, begin to 
define ourselves? In a world where 
art means male art, culture means male 
culture, language means male language- 
when every tool we need to discover 
our heritage is a male tool-we must 
find the courage and the patience to 
challenge all our assumptions, values, 
and discoveries-to scrutinize every con- 
cept and idea we use. As we begin 
to explore the sources of our oppres- 
sion, the tools of the search will be 
as important as anything we find 
along the way. 

The female/woman person who e- 
merges at the end of that search may 
or may not resemble the creatures 
called women now. We cannot know 
now, at the beginning of our search, 
who we can become, or what we are 
capable of doing. We can only know 
that being human is an ongoing pro- 
cess of self-definition, and the human 
person known as woman must be 


$10.00 per yr« 


The Woman Activist, Inc. 

2310 Barbour Road 
Falls Church, VA 22043 


Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 
A Tool for Liberation 

The feminist revolutionary leader is 
a person who has begun to assess the 
tools that must be used in our search 
for woman identity-ana who has re- 
cognized that this is a process that 
cannot be completed alone. We are 
seeking our commonality as women 
as we examine our past, present, and 
future, and must do it with other 
women rather than alone. Because 
our social reality is created by the 
collective consciousness of all who 
exist within that reality, there can 
be no truly humanizing transformation 
of social reality unless we work in 
solidarity and reiect individual solu- 

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire 
describes a revolutionary process which 
can provide feminist revolutionary lead- 
ership with a methodology, a "tool," 
to discover our collective woman-iden- 
tity and therefore become the subject 
of the social reality in which we 
exist. According to Freire, this percep- 
tion of ourselves as subject is the 
prerequisite for achieving true liber- 

There are two distinct phases in 
Freire's pedgaogy of the oppressed. 
In the first stage, we must develop 
a consciousness of our own oppression 
and its true causes. The primary 
purpose of this stage is to help us 
perceive the oppressor within our- 
selves. In the second stage, the ped- 
agogy of the oppressed becomes the 
pedagogy of all people, and insures a 

Feminist Leaders Can't Walk on Water/37 

process of permanent, on-going libera- 


The process within which the fem- 
inist revolutionary leader can bring 
other women to the moment of self- 
discovery is called "dialogical educa- 
tion." In it, "the revolutionary lead- 
ership establishes a permanent relation- 
ship of dialogue with the oppressed." 
The commitment many feminists have 
already made to non-hierarchy, con- 
sensual decision-making, shared lead- 
ership, anti-capitalist ideology, and 
other kinds of egalitarian structures, 
indicates that feminist revolutionary 
leadership has already begun to use 
some of these principles. 

There are three major aspects to 
this dialogical or problem-posing educ- 
tion. First, there must be the elimina- 
tion of the power disparity between 
teacher and student (or leader and 
oppressed). This cannot be achieved 
as long as the leader-teacher sees her- 
self as one who possesses a truth 
that must be conveyed to the student. 
In assuming the role of an authority 
who interprets social reality for them, 
the teacher denies the students ex- 
istence as subjects, because she denies 
them the opportunity to achieve prax- 
is by reflecting and acting together on 
the social reality in which they exist. 
Thus the oppressed are condemned to 
continue in a passive role-they are 
once again made victims of their envir- 

The second major aspect of dial- 
ogical education is that the knowledge 
to be examined or shared is not the 
private property of any one member of 

the group but something brought to 
the group and examined by the group 
together. It is important to remem- 
ber that for Freire, humanity and 
the social reality (culture) it creates 
are in a continual process of be- 
coming. To be valid, then, any know- 
ledge brought before a group must be 
reflected upon and then acted upon 
by the group-even if only to con- 
firm the reliability of the knowledge 
it has examined. In this process 
we must be willing to re-examine all 
the truths we take most for granted. 
Third, Freire maintains that the 
authentic revolutionary leader does 
not focus her energies upon trying 
to change the oppressed, because by 
doing so, she reduces the oppressed to 
objects. Instead her role is to work 
with the oppressed to organize and 
"re-present" the things we must know 
in order to change social reality. As 
feminist leaders, we must not make 
the mistake of focusing our attentions 
and efforts so exclusively upon an 
ideal of the liberated woman that we 
overlook the "concrete, existential, 
present situation" of real women. "1° 
Freire suggests that the way to keep 
a focus on the real situation is to 
merge the process and content of 
dialogical education into what he calls 
the "great generative themes of an 
epoch." Freire believes that the fun- 
damental generative theme of our ep- 
och is domination, which in turn 
implies its opposite, liberation. As 
long as the oppressed are submerged 
and unable to see that the limits on 
their freedom can be changed by their 


own efforts, the generative themes 
are hidden from them. Because the 
themes are the concrete representation 
of praxis itself, the oppressed will be 
unable to perceive the themes until 
they have developed the level of crit- 
ical consciousness that will allow them 
to participate in transforming their 
reality and creating their own libera- 


Beginning a Strategy 

The fundamental generative theme 
that we as feminists confront is that 
of patriarchy-which implies its op- 
posite-feminist liberation. Patriarchy 
differs from culture to culture and 
class to class both in the degree to 
which it manifests itself and the ways 
it oppresses people. Yet there is no 
culture on earth where women are not, 
at some level, valued less than men. 

Feminist revolutionary leadership 
can use Freire's methodology to trans- 
form patriarchal oppression into true 
liberation. Of course the specific 
ways in which we choose to utilize 
this tool will differ from leader to 
leader and place to place. But I 
believe that feminists have already 
seen its applicability. The conscious- 
ness-raising group and its structure 
grew out of an intuitive understanding 
on the part of oppressed women that 
we must begin to fight oppression by 
organizing around the issues of our 
oppression as we see them. In the 
first place, the non-hierarchical struc- 
ture of consciousness-raising groups 
reflects a deep understanding that we 
must grapple with our social reality as 

subjects, without the mediation of a 
leader, since leaders deny us the exper- 
ience of praxis. Second, the fact 
that we chose to come together in 
groups at all indicates that we recognize 
the need to work with other women to 
transform the reality of patriarchal 
domination. Finally, though many 
CR groups have found it very difficult 
to make the transition from the mem- 
bers' personal concerns to political 
action, Freire's analysis of praxis pro- 
vides a conceptual framework that 
would allow CR groups to make the 

Moreover the process is not limited 
to CR groups. Feminist revolutionary 
leaders should also be able to employ 
the concepts of dialogical education 
in a variety of situations. We must 
be prepared for the inevitable fum- 
blings and false paths as we seek the 
best way to use the concepts of dialogi- 
cal education to develop a feminist 
revolutionary force capable of trans- 
forming patriarchy into the liberation 
of all women. 

What I've outlined here is less a 
strategy than a concept. Yet I believe 
it can begin to help those of us 
looking for leadership models find a 
basis for our actions. Because dialogi- 
cal education is based upon a humanity 

L M00N5T0RM 

Sen <J „. 
W 't'f1tf Qnd 

& Lows, f*\o. 

754 «* issue 
"TSo / (, issues 

Tow»«fc.6*o>je .S-hrtK>n 
Sf.LouiSj Mo. &JIIO 
NflpE - 


S4ate lip 

Feminist Leaders Can't Walk on Water/39 

that is forever in the process of be- 
coming more fully human through its 
own liberation, the strategies must 
also be evolving—changing with the 
needs and perceptions of the women 
with whom we work and fight. 


ISimone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex 
(New York: Vintage Books, 1974). 

^Paul Hershey and Kenneth Blanchard, 
Management of Organizational Behavior 
(Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1972) 
p. 134. 

^Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 
pp. 779-780. 

^Robert Townsend, Up the Organization 
(Greenwich, Ct., Fawcett, 1971); see also 
Caroline Bird, Everything a Woman Needs to 
Know to Get Paid What She's Worth, ed. 
Helen Mandelbaum (New York: Bantam, 

^Ti-Grace Atkinson, Amazon Odyssey 
New York: Links Books, 1974), pp. 10-11. 

^See Joreen, "The Tyranny of Structure- 
lessness," Second Wave, II, 1, 131. 

7peggy Kornegger, "Anarchism: The 
Feminist Connection," Second Wave IV, 1, 

°Judy Henderson, "On Integrating the 
Personal and the Political," Socialism/ 'l-'em- 
nism, Papers from the New American Move- 
ment Conference on Feminism and Social- 
ism, 1972, p. 8. 

"Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed 
tr. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Sea- 
bury Press, 1974). 

10 Ibid., p. 36. 

ll Ibid., p. 30. 

Ulbid, p. 36. 

13Ibid., p. 81. 

l^Sce Phyllis Chesler, Women and Mad- 
ness (New York: Avon Books, 1972). 

15Simone De Beauvoir, The Second 
Sex, p. sviii. 

loPaulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Op- 
pressed, p. 13. 

17 Ibid., p. 67. 

18 Ibid„ p. 82. 

Lorraine Master son is a graduate 
student in the School of Education at 
the University of Massachusetts, with 
a special interest in adult education 
and life-long learning. 



... an important new booklet which provides 
an overview of conditions women face in this 
country's jails and prisons with an eye toward 
what can and is being done to bring about fun- 
damental change. Included are over 100 cap- 
sule descriptions of groups giving prisoners 
political support and services, such as legal ed- 
ucation projects, bail funds and prisoner unions. 
Articles detail the problems of female prisoners, 
analyse the role of prisons in society, suggest 
organizing tactics, and outline the legal system 
of the People's Republic of China. There are 
also sketches of six U.S. women political pris- 
oners and interviews with three ex-cons. An- 
notated listings describe print and audio-visual 
resources. 56pp., $1 .75, free to prisoners. 
Resources for Community Change, PO Box 
21066, Washington, DC 20009 

In Quest's Report to Our Readers 1., 
Volume II, Number 3, we omitted the dates 
of the financial statement on Page 41. The 
financial statement was for the nine months 
ending September 30, 1975. 


Report to Our Readers 2. 

In our last issue, "Organizations 
and Strategies," we discussed the fi- 
nancial development of Quest. Here 
we would like to explain the evolu- 
tion of our editorial and administrative 
process. The feminist movement has 
placed much emphasis on process, rec- 
ognizing that success in achieving 
goals, such as the setting up and run- 
ning of a particular project, is not a 
full measure of movement effective- 
ness. In order to structure new institu- 
tions, organizational models, leader- 
ship concepts and, most importantly, 
power relationships, feminist groups 
must examine their own internal mech- 
anisms as part of an evolving, experi- 
ential approach to change. Thus it is 
especially appropriate that Quest dis- 
cuss its internal process within these 
issues on organization and leadership. 

Quest's process is tied internally to 
its historical development. The journal 
grew from a series of meetings com- 
menced in November 1972, called by 
feminists in the Washington area who 
wanted to find a way to further the 
movement's political development. Af- 
ter months of discussion, we decided 
that the movement needed a national 
forum for feminist analysis and ideo- 
logy that was linked with practical 
feminist experience. As a group of 
activists, we were primarily interested 
in movement building, and not, per se, 
in producing a journal. 

A number of important factors 
have affected Quest's process. First, 
the original group had a common 
(although nqt identical) politics which 
recognized the importance of class, 
lesbian feminism and power to fem- 
inist ideology. We had also, by this 
time, worked together over a period of 
months and had started Quest on a 
solid base of trust in one another. 
Too, we had a common history of 
political activism, had stable ties to 
D.C., and most of us had already made 
initial-if differing— decisions about out- 
side jobs vs. jobs within the move- 
ment. All these factors led to group 
cohesiveness and to a long-range com- 
mitment to producing a high quality 
journal. Over the life of Quest, our 
staff has changed relatively little; this 
has provided the continuity necessary 
for the gradual development and re- 
finement of a process which is suited 
to the needs both of individuals and 
of producing a journal. Moreover, we 
represent a diversity in class, age, sex- 
ual preference, family responsibility, 
etc., which has insured a varied per- 
spective on feminist issues and analy- 

Our process sprang initially from 
certain necessities, as well as from 
political analysis. That is, to some ex- 
tent our process was determined by 
the practicalities of putting out a jour- 
nal and by each individual's outside 

Report to Our Readers, Part 11/41 

commitments (e.g., many of us have 
full-time, outside jobs). A particularly 
important factor in our early develop- 
ment was that we received both office 
space and two salaries from the Insti- 
tute for Policy Studies; one of our 
staff is an Institute fellow who was 
entitled to hire another person to 
work with her. The rest of us, how- 
ever, were not paid staff, which im- 
mediately raised the question of time 
commitment. After discussing Quest's 
needs and the time each person had 
available, we agreed that with some 
flexibility, each staff person would 
spend between 15 and 20 hours week- 
ly on Quest. This commitment is, and 
always has been, enforced through a 
system of accountability, trust and 
responsibility, integrally related to our 
leadership structure. 

Quest is not a collective in that we 
do acknowledge leadership and are not 
all involved in making all decisions. 
In essence we have a system of shift- 
ing, horizontal leadership based on our 
individual skills and time commit- 
ments. The first process we apply in 
this kind of leadership is assignment 
of specific areas of responsibility. 
This involves learning how to recog- 
nize, acknowledge and further develop 
our different skills. For instance, we 
found that while some of us could 
edit, others were good at proofreading, 
art and layout, promotion, and bus- 
iness managing. We see ourselves as 
equals in that we all perform essential 
tasks for Quest, but we do not see 
ourselves as identical. Each individual 
staff member must take responsibility 

for the work within some given area. 
In that work, she is delegated authority 
to make certain kinds of decisions and 
handles both the creative and mun- 
dane parts of the task. Thus, while we 
do not all do the same things, our div- 
ision of labor is horizontal and no one 
does only the "best" or the "worst" 
parts of a job. 

Ultimately, of course, each member 
is accountable to the group; most 
importantly, we have found that this 
shifting responsibility can only work 
if we trust each other to fulfill our 
commitments. The resolution of which 
decisions were to be made by the 
whole group and which by individuals 
evolved as it became clear that the 
group was spending too much time on 
day-to-day decisions. Gradually, as we 
became comfortable with each other's 
particular roles, we also became com- 
fortable with the idea that certain 
problems did not have to be brought 
to the whole staff. All policy, edi- 
torial, copy, staff and fundraising de- 
cisions, however, are always made by 
the entire staff. 

Although we do not have a hier- 
archy, those who work full-time on 
Quest have more responsibility for and 
knowledge of the intricacies and prob- 
lems of day-to-day operations, and 
therefore, have more decision-making 
authority. Different personalities tend 
to have more power to affect decisions 
for the whole group. There is some 
correlation between full-time staff vs. 
part-time staff and this power balance, 
which may be a function of per- 
sonality, is also probably accentuated 

42/Quest, vol. II no. 4, spring, 1976 

by the fact that the degree of expertise 
and familiarity with a particular prob- 
lem affects persuasiveness. In any 
case, we are committed to developing 
forms of interaction that take personal 
needs into account. For instance, we 
attempt to work out new job assign- 
ments before dissatisfaction reaches 
crisis proportions. This is done, in 
part, through criticism/self-criticism 
which follows each of our weekly 
meetings. This process is meant to 
draw out constructive suggestions a- 
bout how our meetings could run more 
efficiently as well as individual prob- 
lems, cither with staff members or 
with the group process. For instance, 
we realized that our meetings would 
run more smoothly if we had a con- 
venor (rotating weekly) responsible 
for starting the meeting and keeping 
things moving. Being a convenor is a 
chore shared by all, not a status. It is 
done for the sake of efficiency, not 

Similarly, we schedule periodic re- 
examinations of our job responsi- 
bilities, necessary in part because job 
needs change as we grow, because we 
have farmed out jobs previously per- 
formed by staff members, because 
some jobs grow too large to be handled 
by one person, because we discover 
our skills lie elsewhere, or simply 
because we need a change. And also, 
we have learned methods of organ- 
ization from talking to other groups. 
For example, the Valley Women's 
Center in Northampton, Mass., sug- 
gested both criticism/self-criticism and 
the idea that we might be more 

efficient if we began our meetings with 
substantive material and ended with 

As the need and desire for add- 
itional staff developed, we had to set 
out more specific criteria for staff. 
We developed written criteria aimed 
both at evaluating persons interested 
in joining Quest (e.g., extent of pre- 
vious political experience, prior work 
with Quest, etc.) and at giving those 
interested an accurate picture of the 
commitment we would expect. We are 
still grappling with how to integrate 
new people into the journal so that 
there is a meaningful basis for evalu- 
ation and contribution on both sides. 
The idea of requiring substantial in- 
volvement with the journal before 
joining the staff has both enabled new 
staff to become familiar with our 
process and has allowed for conti- 
nuity. It has also allowed political 
trust to develop so that new staff can 
come into our process on an equal 

We have found that a number of 
decisions are dictated by business, edi- 
torial and political necessity. Before 
the publication of our first issue, most 
of the business of Quest could be 
handled by one person, and the rest of 
us spent our time on copy, fundraising 
and substantive development. As the 
business of the journal expanded, we 
assigned one full-time person over-all 
supervision of the business and office 
work, and other business-related jobs 
had to be divided among us. Yet the 
business end has continued to expand, 
necessitating both a mailing and a 

Report to Our Readers, Part 11/43 

distribution service. And still there is a 
desperate need for one or more new 
full-time persons in the office. Last 
fall, Quest hired its first full-time 
worker paid from Quest funds-specifi- 
cally accountable to Quest alone for 
her salary and whose sole job commit- 
ment is to Quest. 

Our editorial policy has undergone 
similar changes. In order to begin 
planning issues sufficiently in advance, 
it was necessary to take the initial 
planning stage away from the group as 
a whole. Although each topic is chosen 
and discussed by the v/hole staff, a 
Development Committee is formed 
consisting of at least one staff member 
(responsible for putting together the 
Committee and for communication 
between the Committee and the staff) 
and several persons not on Quest staff. 
This has allowed a more direct role for 
non-staff persons in issue development 
and has been a place for people 
interested in working with us to play 
an important role. Essentially, the 
Development Committee outlines the 
kinds of questions it would like 
articles to consider and solicits articles. 
It also takes care of initial correspon- 
dence and article development with 
potential authors and makes prelim- 
inary copy judgments. The staff person 
on the Committee keeps the entire 
staff informed as to progress and 
reports staff decisions to the Com- 
mittee. After copy deadline, the entire 
staff reads all copy being considered 
and, in conjunction with the Develop- 
ment Committee, makes final decisions 
and assigns editors. Our editorial 

process consists of a first and second 
content editor and a technical editor. 
Once an article is edited, it must be 
typeset, its place in the journal de- 
signed and laid out, and then it can 
be sent to the printer. Thus, after 
articles are accepted, there is still 
over two months' worth of work 
before the journal is completed. 

Since we are a group of political 
activists primarily interested in move- 
ment building and not just in pro- 
ducing a journal,, our process has had 
to take into account our political 
needs. Since every minute of meeting 
time and of our lives could be taken 
up in the details and decisions related 
to producing a journal, we found that 
we had to insure that we kept in touch 
with politics generally, and with move- 
ment activity in particular. We decided 
to begin each of our weekly meetings 
with a one-hour political discussion, 
our subjects ranging from internal 
politics (such as our attitudes toward 
our Quest jobs) to more general polit- 
ical questions such as our responsi- 
bility toward children, our attitudes 
toward money, and so on. Second, in 
an attempt to reach out more to the 
feminist community in D.C., we have 
conducted a political seminar follow- 
ing each Quest issue and are initiating 
a feminist political theory course. We 
are still struggling to develop more 
ways to keep ourselves actively in- 
volved in politics, while maintaining 
Quest as a journal. We will discuss this 
and other questions that we have 
concerning our future in the next 
issue of Quest (Volume III, No. 1). 



I sit at the mirror 

to make myself old 

spread out 

my mummer's palette 

of ochre 

acid yellow 

and clown white 

burnt umber 

all bruise 

and shadow 

traces the clues of age across my brow 

frowns and grimaces 

revealing time's itinerary 

I watch expectantly 

for high cheekbones 

hawk-beaked hills and hollows 

withered by the sun 

but this is my mother's face falling on mine 

round and full 

lucent with foxfire: 

we are the Celtic people 

our mothers worshipped the moon 

and coupled with forest spirits 

these girlish hands 

tie back my mossy hair 

with fingers firm and straight 

they mock my age 

by Elizabeth Frazer 

Metamorphosis, A Poem/45 

Notes on a 



by Bat-Ami Bar On 

graphics by Jackie MacMillan 

Editors' Introduction: Last Spring, 
we first heard via the feminist grape- 
vine of the beginnings oj a national 
feminist economic network. Without 
knowing much more than that, the 
concept sounded good to many of us. 
We had been waiting for some time for 
some radical feminists to do something 
on a national level concerning women's 
economic situation. 

In May, 1975, an initial planning 
meeting was held in New Haven, Con- 
necticut. In it, the first conceptions of 
the network focussed primarily on 
newly-forming feminist credit unions 
and ways they could cooperate for 
mutual growth. And it was largely the 
political foresight and organizing of 
Joanne Parrent and Valerie Angers of 
the Detroit Feminist Federal Credit 
Union which led to this meeting and 
to the subsequent first annual confer- 
ence of FEN (the Feminist Economic 
Network), Thanksgiving weekend in 

At the May planning session, which 
only feminist credit unions had at- 
tended, tasks were delegated to the 
regional credit unions concerning pre- 
parations for the annual conference. 
The Washington Area Feminist Federal 
Credit Union was delegated the task of 
preparing a draft of by-laws for FEN. 
But when the 75 to 100 women who 
came to the conference registered, they 
found enclosed in the registration 
packet a set of by-laws prepared by 
the Detroit FFCU. 

While most of the women attending 
the conference spent Saturday in work- 
shops discussing such subjects as fem- 
inist structure, loan policy and fem- 
inism and economic theory, a smaller 
group met to discuss FEN's organiza- 
tional structure and the now-existing 
three sets of proposed by-laws: Wash- 
ington's, Detroit's, and New Haven's. 
It was in this by-laws session that 
significant differences first emerged 
among the Credit Unions. 

A plenary session had been sched- 
uled for Saturday night to discuss 
FEN purposes and the by-laws. This 
plenary session resulted in the high- 
ly charged walkout of the Detroit 
delegation, some of the Washington 
group and other women when it be- 
came clear that the assembly was not 
going to accept the Detroit by-laws 
d)id structure in toto, without discus- 
sion and change. Thus Sunday found 
two groups meeting separately, one 
retaining the FEN name, and com- 
prised primarily of Detroit and some 
Washington women, and the other 
comprised of the vast majority of con- 

46/Quest, vol. II no. 4, spring, 1976 

ference participants, which chose to be 
called the Feminist Economic Alliance. 

It should be clarified that it is not 
within the function of either umbrella 
organization to lend directly to in- 
dividuals, but rather, to assist member 
groups through loans, materials and 
expertise. Thus the discussion below 
concerning differential treatment in 
lending criteria should not be con- 
strued as relating to individuals in the 
loan process, though the theory applies 
equally whether for member organiza- 
tions or for individuals. 

The FEN Conference in Detroit 
resulted in the establishment of two 
separate organizations-the Feminist 
Economic Alliance (FEA), and the 
Feminist Economic Network (FEN). 
While I do not know yet how anyone 
is going to respond to one more split 
in the movement, I find it necessary to 
reflect on and analyze the happenings 
that led to such a result. I went to the 
Conference hopeful and excited; I 
came out of it tired and depressed, 
and while in some ways I regret that 
it ended the way it did-with the estab- 
lishment of two organizations, both of 
which have to appeal to the same pool 
of feminists, the future of both de- 
pending not only on the initial organ- 
izers, but on this pool-I believe that 
that this particular split is in essence 
healthy. More precisely, I believe that 
the establishment of FEA was a healthy 
response on the part of its organ- 
izers to their conflicts with the or- 
ganizers of FEN. 

The conflicts between the two 
groups reside in philosophical, polit- 

ical and pragmatic disagreements. Spe- 
cifically, I feel that there are four basic 
points around which the split arose, 
all of which have significant implica- 
tions for the movement, both in theory 
and in practice. As I felt they emerged 
at the Conference, the four points arc: 
(1) the philosophy ofleadcrship; (2) the 
problem of democratic process-in this 
case, the assumptions underlying the 
participants' freedom to create alter- 
natives to the FEN proposal; (3) the 
question of decision-making, and (4) the 
implications of these points on the 
exercise of power in the feminist move- 
ment. As I will show, each of these 
considerations is both implied in the 
FEN statement of purpose and was 
acted out in the Conference itself. 

The Politics of Leadership 

At face value, it may seem that 
none of the positions advanced by the 
organizers of FEN was unreasonable. 
For example, the calling and orga- 
nizing of a Conference open to all 
women from feminist enterprises can 
easily be construed as indicating the 
organizers' willingness to dialogue. But 
in fact the Conference was not open 
to all women from feminist enter- 
prises; most of the groups contacted 
were either credit unions or Feminist 
Women's Health Centers.* Given that 

To my knowledge only four enter- 
prises other than the 12 or 13 credit 
unions and two health centers (Oakland 
and Detroit TWHC's) participated 

Notes on a Feminist Economics/47 

the intention of the Conference organ- 
izers was to establish a nation-wide um- 
brella organization of feminist enter- 
prises, this selectivity is at least sur- 
prising, particularly when viewed in the 
context of FEN's expressed statement 
of purpose: "The purpose of this 
association shall be: 1. to provide 
economic development and accept fin- 
ancial leadership? for the Feminist 
Movement. " ■*• 

First, even if all the Conference 
participants had agreed to such a state- 
ment of purpose, the fact that most of 
them were from credit unions only- 
not from other feminist enterprises- 
makes the statement quite presump- 
tuous. Second, the ultimate accep- 
tance of such a statement by one 
faction of the participants, and in 
spite of the split and the fact that the 
organizers of FEN are a substantially 
smaller group, is even more presump- 
tuous, in my judgment. Such a state- 
ment of purpose is to me dangerously 
broad as well as unverifiable, given 
both the diversity of the movement 
and its lack of structure, and given the 
Conference's lack of representation 
from all segments of the movement. 

But I have a more basic objection 
to the stated purpose, which concerns 
the organizers' assumptions about the 
nature of leadership. The FEN orga- 
nizers claimed during Conference dis- 
cussions that there is no difference be- 
tween "accepting" leadership and "tak- 
ing" or "assuming" it. Since the FEN 
bylaws give its board of directors all 
decision-making powers, all powers 
necessary to supervise FEN's imple- 

mentation and all powers to appoint 
and dismiss officers, as well as other 
such powers (and given the style in 
which the FEN organizers actually 
exercised their powers during the Con- 
ference), it seems quite clear to me 
that they in fact do intend to take 
financial leadership of the feminist 
movement regardless of what other 
group and individual members of the 
movement are willing to accept. 

A basic confusion seems to under- 
line this manner of thinking and act- 
ing. One of the first assumptions the 
radical feminist philosophy of leader- 
ship involves is that in a group that 
operates organically, leadership is as- 
sumed (or taken) by some members 
when necessary, and that different 
members will rotate in and out of 
leadership positions, depending on the 
tasks at hand, the members' skills and 
other factors. But this assumption 
cannot exist without its complement: 
that those members who are not 
leaders have to be willing to accept 
the members who assume leadership. 
If they are not, several results are 
possible, one of which is a split. 

When only the first assumption 
exists openly, and when one claims to 
accept leadership in behalf of the 
group, she assumes the complement 
implicitly. In this context, the assump- 
tion of group acceptance takes an 
interesting turn. Those who assume 
leadership also assume that they are, 
or at least should be, accepted as such 
by others because they best represent 
the interests and the will of all and 
thus can best serve the group as a 


whole.** That the organizers of FEN 
assumed the complement in such a 
manner was and is quite evident. 
First, for example, they claimed that 
feminists (and themselves as such) 
should be trusted because feminists 
cannot oppress or exploit others, es- 
pecially women; because feminists will 
do their best to serve others, especially 
women; and because feminists under- 
stand what is in the best interests of 
others, especially women. Second, 
when these claims were challenged by 
Conference participants whose experi- 
ence had been that these claims arc 
not necessarily true, the challengers' 
feminist credentials were questioned 
in response-a dialectic especially evi- 
dent when the FEA organizers were 
construed to be wrong or at least mis- 
taken in their rejection of FEN by- 
laws, and when their refusal to ratify 
the FEN bylaws was not even con- 
sidered by way of resolving the di- 
lemma. My perception is that the orga- 
nizers of FEN left no space for resolu- 
tion of differences-that the lack of 
space for dialogue was in fact one 
of the main features of the Conference. 

The problem is quite old, and the 
women's movement should look at it ser- 
iously. Plato struggled ivith it and suggested 
a benevolent dictatorship as a solution hav- 
ing the same assumptions. Rousseau tried 
to work around it, but when his solutio>i 
was practiced in the French Revolution, it 
resulted in disaster because the assumptions 
were the same. Moreover, absolute obe- 
dience to party line, as expressed by some 
communist parties and in fascist ideologies, 
is justified on the same grounds. 

In other words, the internal political 
process between the two groups was 
not allowed to evolve as a cooperative 
exchange; instead, it was forced to 
evolve along competitive lines. 

In my view, the Conference re- 
volved around the distribution of-and 
thus the possession of-financial, if not 
also political power. While I do not 
want to believe that competition is a 
necessary result of encounters involv- 
ing the distribution of power, the Con- 
ference convinced me once more that 
it is one real possibility. However, if 
such encounters are to evolve along 
different lines, some preconditions 
must hold. Insofar as cooperation is 
possible not only among equals but 
also among unequals, one such pre- 
condition is that the powerful need to 
be at least willing to cooperate, wil- 
ling to construct arrangements that 
will allow the powerless and the 
powerful to develop without hinder- 

The issue here, though, is that in 
this world, the possessors of financial 
power have much influence on the 
direction the political wind blows. 
The possessors of such power do not 
need to be also the possessors of 
direct political power; they exercise 
their financial power in order to 
influence the political process. And by 
controlling the resources whose dis- 
tribution is the main variable around 
which all political encounters revolve, 
they also control the movements of 
participants in that encounter. 2 To 
lack financial resources, or to fall out 
of grace with those who have them, is 

Notes on a Feminist Economics/49 

thus almost the same as to lack, or to 
lose political power. Much is necessary 
in order to insure that this will not be 
the case-mostly the exercise of some 
set of controls over those in charge of 
material and other resources. Insofar 
as no such set of controls was provided 
for by FEN, "acceptance" of financial 
leadership here can adequately be con- 
strued as "acceptance" of political 
leadership as well. 

The organizers of FEN, while fewer 
in number, were and are at least as 
powerful, if not more powerful, than 
the organizers of FEA. As the different 
participants entered the Conference 
negotiations, FEN had (and still has) 
at its disposal as much (if not more) 
money, time, information and other 
resources, as the organizers of FEA. 
More precisely, from the start the 
powerful negotiators were the Detroit 
credit union and its branches (present 
and future) and the Oakland Feminist 
Women's Health Center and some 
others. These organizations came to 
the Conference as a unified front. On 
the other hand, the members of the 
other participating credit unions and 
enterprises were the relatively power- 
less negotiators. They had (and have) 
fewer resources, and they came to the 
Conference without a pre-established 
unity; instead, they (or rather, most of 
them) united in direct response to the 
others, as the relatively powerless 
often do. Lacking a pre-established 
unity and lacking resources equal to 
those of the Detroit-Oakland coalition, 
the other Conference participants also 
lacked a power base for participating 

SO/ Quest 

in an effective dialogue about the 
money/power equation. 

The surprising selectivity in the 
enterprises contacted about the Con- 
ference makes this problem an acute 
one, given the fact that most were 
credit unions. Credit unions are a 
money-making-money kind of enter- 
prise. No production or service related 
to production is involved in the way 
the money is made. In other words, 
while other enterprises accumulate 
capital via production or the provision 
of services, credit unions accumulate 
capital because they have it to start 
with. They control one of the factors 
necessary in the establishment of other 
enterprises-money. Thus they are ca- 
pable of determining the survival of ex- 
isting enterprises and the establish- 
ment of future ones. If the Conference 
had resulted in one organization, most 
of whose members were credit unions, 
then under the stringent bylaws pro- 
posed by FEN, this kind of control 
would have been assured in the hands 
of FEN leaders. 

The converging of economic and 
political power, specifically in the con- 
text of money-making-money organ- 
izations, is a subject to which I will 
return. At this point, however, I 
suggest that there are dangerous ten- 
dencies inherent in the bylaws' assump- 
tions about the rights of would-be 
leaders and in the prospective conver- 
gence of economic and political power 
that FEN would represent. From my 
point-of-view, these are tendencies 
that actually operated in the Confer- 
ence, and if we allow for their free 



■ il 



Notes on a Feminist Economics/51 

play, we allow for their consequences: 
the formation of nation-wide feminist 
organizations operating in the same 
way that any other nation-wide eco- 
nomic organization operates in a free- 
market society. This consequence leads 
into another position that at face 
value does not seem unreasonable, but 
which cannot stand up under close 

The Democratic Process and 
Freedom of Alternatives 

One of the principles espoused by 
the organizers of FEN was that if one 
does not like what FEN proposes, one 
is free to do what one wishes to do. 
The organizers of FEA did exactly 
that; now it is apparently up to the 
feminist public at large to choose be- 
tween the two organizations, or if the 
principle is extended, to choose nei- 
ther and create a third organization or 
more. The problem, however, is that 
the principle can be acted on only 
when viable alternatives exist. The 
problem here is also that there are not 
too many viable alternatives. More- 
over, the principle implies refusal to 

As to the latter implication, in the 
Conference, the "freedom of alter- 
natives" principle was actually acted 
on to cut down on objections and 
criticisms rather than to encourage 
dialogue. If one did not like the sug- 
gested FEN bylaws, one had one's 
choice.. .but one choice was excluded- 
cooperative work. To some extent, one 
could state one's objections, but most- 

ly they were not listened to, and when 
they were, they were hardly ever 
considered. ***If one is willing to co- 
operate with others, one must also be 
willing to allow for change; thus one 
must be willing to listen to and 
consider what others have to say. 
To act otherwise is to imply that one 
is beyond criticism or, at best, to 
leave resolution to future develop- 
ments by default. + Neither is accept- 
able because each allows ample room 
for the abuse of power. 

In my view, the present question of 
leadership and the freedom of choice 
is about power. This was also demon- 
strated at the Conference. For ex- 
ample, the organizers of FEN claimed 
that we should not look at power as a 
limited commodity-that not only is 
there enough of it for all to share, but 
also that each of us creates her own 
power. If this is acceptable, one need 
not worry about the existence of via- 
ble alternatives; one simply goes out 
into the world and creates them. 
Reality, however, is somewhat more 
complicated. At any given time, the 
amount of existing and potential pow- 
er is limited: there are always limits in 

/ will go so far as to claim that the 
slight changes made in the bylaws suggested 
by Detroit's credit union (and accepted as 
l ; EN bylaivs) resulted from an urgoit need 
to accommodate Washuigton's credit union 
(givcti the split), and because of omissions- 
e.g., the statement of a process by which 
the board is selected. WAVVCV is current- 
ly a member of neither organization. 

+ AJa)iy have appealed to history, claim- 
ing that in the long run it will absolve them. 
Hut history does not absolve easily; it con- 
siders both the means and the consequences. 



i hr' \ 


; < "),■ 

..••,■ ■ • 


Notes on a Feminist Economics/51 

play, we allow for their consequences: 
the formation of nation-wide feminist 
organizations operating in the same 
way that any other nation-wide eco- 
nomic organization operates in a free- 
market society. This consequence leads 
into another position that at face 
value does not seem unreasonable, but 
which cannot stand up under close 

The Democratic Process and 
Freedom of Alternatives 

One of the principles espoused by 
the organizers of FEN was that if one 
does not like what FEN proposes, one 
is free to do what one wishes to do. 
The organizers of FEA did exactly 
that; now it is apparently up to the 
feminist public at large to choose be- 
tween the two organizations, or if the 
principle is extended, to choose nei- 
ther and create a third organization or 
more. The problem, however, is that 
the principle can be acted on only 
when viable alternatives exist. The 
problem here is also that there are not 
too many viable alternatives. More- 
over, the principle implies refusal to 

As to the latter implication, in the 
Conference, the "freedom of alter- 
natives" principle was actually acted 
on to cut down on objections and 
criticisms rather than to encourage 
dialogue. If one did not like the sug- 
gested FEN bylaws, one had one's 
choice.. .but one choice was excluded- 
cooperative work. To some extent, one 
could state one's objections, but most- 

ly they were not listened to, and when 
they were, they were hardly ever 
considered. ***lf one is willing to co- 
operate with others, one must also be 
willing to allow for change; thus one 
must be willing to listen to and 
consider what others have to say. 
To act otherwise is to imply that one 
is beyond criticism or, at best, to 
leave resolution to future develop- 
ments by default. + Neither is accept- 
able because each allows ample room 
for the abuse of power. 

In my view, the present question of 
leadership and the freedom of choice 
is about power. This was also demon- 
strated at the Conference. For ex- 
ample, the organizers of FEN claimed 
that we should not look at power as a 
limited commodity-that not only is 
there enough of it for all to share, but 
also that each of us creates her own 
power. If this is acceptable, one need 
not worry about the existence of via- 
ble alternatives; one simply goes out 
into the world and creates them. 
Reality, however, is somewhat more 
complicated. At any given time, the 
amount of existing and potential pow- 
er is limited: there are always limits in 

/ will go so far as to claim that the 
slight changes made in the bylaws suggested 
by Detroit's credit union (and accepted as 
il-N bylaws) resulted from an urgent need 
to accommodate Washington's credit union 
(given the split), and because of omissions- 
e.g., the statement of a process by which 
the board is selected. WAi'l'CU is current- 
ly a member of neither organization. 

+ Many have appealed to history, claim- 
ing that in the long run it will absolve them. 
But history does not absolve easily; it co>i- 
siders both the mcaiis and the consequences. 


resources, tin.e, opportunity and skills. 
Moreover, the job of getting power 
requires having some in order to 
create more. Given these complexities, 
the question of viable alternatives 
cannot be brushed away. Alternatives 
are not created via some mysterious 
process; they can be created only 
when one has the means necessary to 
create them, and if and when these 
means are controlled by someone 
else, one simply cannot create viable 

Let us look at what happened in 
the Conference. The organizers of 
FEA had some of the means necessary 
to create alternatives for themselves, 
and they did so. But as a result of the 
Conference, most of the existing and 
forming credit unions are aligned with 
either one or the other umbrella 
organization. The problem is that if 
each organization decides to provide 
information, training, financial support 
and other kinds of help only to the 
credit unions that pledge allegiance to 
it, then the range of alternatives open 
to women interested in the creation of 
new credit unions is seriously limited. 
At best, they will be required either to 
accept the terms of the existing organ- 
izations, or to recreate the wheel if they 
only can. Moreover, if forming organ- 
izations are to be treated differently, 
depending on their pledge or refusal, 
those who adopt the terms of either 
organization will automatically be con- 
sidered as better financial risks than 
those who do not. The forming organ- 
ization will not be left with much 

One of the main problems at this 
point is that such differential treat- 
ment does not have to be consciously 
instituted-whenever one has the pow- 
er to provide services or to help 
another who is in need, the person in 
need is up against the dangers of 
differential treatment. " H ~ While profes- 
sional ethics may prevent abuses in 
some cases, the rules of the game are 
not the same when what is needed is a 

In such cases, the person in need is 
almost at the mercy of the person(s) 
making decisions about what consti- 
tutes a good credit risk. More pre- 
cisely, the decision is whether it is 
worthwhile to invest one's money in 
the enterprises of another. This has to 
be decided before the loan is made; 
not all people are good credit risks 
and it is necessary to distinguish be- 
tween them and, to this end, some set 
of criteria is established. But all that 
any set of objective criteria can define 
is that the person is capable of repay- 
ing the sum of money loaned plus 
interest. The criteria, if they are objec- 
tive, cannot determine that the person 
is both capable and willing. Since it 
is not only one's possibilities for future 
loans that are dependent on one's punc- 
tuality in repaying a loan, but also 
one's reputation as a "good" credit 

' H 'The danger of differential treatment 
is greater within a movement like the 
women's movement, because one almost 
constantly distinguishes between those who 
are "with us" and those who are "against 
us, " or who are potentially so. 

Notes on a Feminist Economics/53 

risk, a moral judgment is involved. 
What we need to be clear about is that 
whenever one qualifies as a "good" 
credit risk according to objective cri- 
teria, one passes only the first of the 
judgments; one also needs to qualify 
as a "good" credit risk according to 
the lender's moral values. It is at this 
point that the danger of differential 
treatment arises. Only a well delineated 
system of controls can reduce the poss- 
ibility that the judgment will be arbi- 
trary or personal; the market can 
hardly control such possibilities. 3 

Since more people are seeking loans 
than there are those able to give them, 
the choices the powerful have are 
much greater than those of the needy. 
This is especially true in the situation 
which is developing in the feminist 
credit community, for normally when 
one is judged to be a "bad" credit 
risk by one organization, she can try 
other organizations, if they exist. But 
if the organizations operate in similar 
ways and with similar values, her 
chances to qualify as a "good" credit 
risk somewhere else are slight. 

That the question of viable alter- 
natives is an important one and cannot 
be ignored is clearer when we look at 
women subgrouped into their socio- 
economic classes. Upper-class women 
have more resources than others, so 
that if they do not like existing alter- 
natives, they can create others. But 
lower-class women are not in the same 
position. They may be able to strength- 
en their own power, but because of 
lack of resources, they are dependent 
on existing alternatives. They simply 

do not have the resources necessary to 
create others. 

Liberal economists (for example, 
Milton Friedman), espouse a notion of 
freedom similar to the principle es- 
poused by the organizers of FEN. 
According to them, one is free when 
one can refuse to participate in any 
given enterprise. They too rely on the 
market to establish as perfect a system 
of competition as possible to assure 
fairness for all, and they too ignore 
the problem of viable alternatives. 
When they do agree that such alter- 
natives may not exist or be created, 
they claim either that this is a result 
of centralized governmental control of 
the market, or that no other concept 
of freedom is realistic. The outstand- 
ing contradiction here is that feminists 
who espouse cooperation cannot rely 
on perfect market competition to 
assure fairness for all, nor can they 
espouse the negative concept of free- 
dom (i.e., freedom to refuse to partici- 
pate) when they claim to be looking 
for positive alternatives to the status 

The Decision-Making Process 

This contradictory thinking which 
seems to have underlined FEN's "free- 
dom of alternatives" concept of fair 
play has a parallel in FEN's apparent 
theory of the decision-making process. 
The organizers of FEN claimed that 
only those who do the work are 
entitled to make decisions, and some- 
times, they seemed even to claim that 
in a decision-making process, those 


who work more should be considered 
more. On its face, such a theory seems 
to make sense, but in this case it 
ignores the fact that the working pro- 
cedures required by any organization 
depend on several variables-size and 
purpose, to point to two. In other 
words, not all principles applicable to 
small organizations are applicable to 
big ones, especially when they art- 
nation-wide umbrella organizations. 
Moreover, not all principles that apply 
to enterprises directly connected with 
production of goods or with the pro- 
vision of services apply co organi- 
zations of the money-making-money 

Let's look at the last claim first. 
In the case of an enterprise whose 
main objective is the production of 
some object, the process of decision- 
making does not need to be open to 
the persons supplying the producers 
with the raw material necessary for 
production. As providers of raw mater- 
ials, they are affected by the producers 

if the resources they provide are abused. 
They can evaluate the use of their 
materials by evaluating the producer's 
end product both quantitatively and 
qualitatively. It is up to the actual 
producers, given that they have input 
from the consumers, to decide how to 
produce, since they are the only ones 
who can assess the consumers' require- 
ments, the resources available for pro- 
duction, their own needs from the 
production process, and the possible 
ways for producing the product in 

In a moncy-making-moncy orga- 
nization, things are not the same since 
there is one essential difference be- 
tween this kind of enterprise and 
others. The person investing money in 
such an enterprise provides its workers 
with the most essential resource need- 
ed for its operation, and yet has no 
way to evaluate the use of the money 
in qualitative terms. The investor can 
judge the product (the interest made 
on a deposit) only quantitatively. 



Mil fcl 1 

N *■■■ ^.,, 

Notes on a Feminist Economics/55 

Hence she cannot know if her money 
was abused. The only way the use of 
money can be evaluated qualitatively 
is indirectly, through evaluating the 
process by which it is produced. Since 
this is the case, the decision-making 
process in a money-making-money 
enterprise cannot be open only to 
those who do the work; it must in- 
clude the investor who, among other 
things, is directly affected by the 

My second concern is that the 
decision-making process also must re- 
flect the purpose of the organization 
which it serves. This consideration, 
too, seems to have been overlooked. If 
we accept the principle that only those 
doing the work are entitled to make 
decisions: if the decisions in question 
are not only work-place decision., but 
policy decisions affecting the organ- 
ization as a whole; and if the organ- 
ization in question is an umbrella organ- 
ization, then we are up against some 
severe problems not faced by small 
organizations to which the principle 
may apply. We institute a lack of 
freedom on the part of the member 
organizations to make their own policy 
decisions and plan on their own so as 
to best serve their communities and 
themselves. When these decisions are 
made elsewhere, the only thing mem- 
ber organizations can decide is how 
policy should be implemented. And if 
they are also given guidelines for 
implementation, all they are left with 
are work-place decisions. No organiza- 
tion, no enterprise that evolves organi- 
cally in and with a community op- 

erates in such a manner. Only organ- 
izations and enterprises planted in a 
community by an outsider do so. 

This problem could be minimized 
if the member organizations could 
participate in decision-making for the 
umbrella organization. But as long as 
at least one woman from each member 
organization does not work in and for 
the umbrella organization too, we 
institute an inability on the part of 
the member organizations to take part 
in the process of decision-making for 
the organization as a whole. And this 
is another problem. I believe that no 
realistic solution to it is compatible 
with the principle that those who do 
the work make the decisions. First, 
the more member organizations there 
are, the less likely it is that there will 
be enough positions in the umbrella 
organization for a representative from 
each. Second, the more specialized the 
skills necessary to run the umbrella 
organization, the less likely it is that 
there will be at least one woman from 
each member organization having or 
willing to acquire these skills, particu- 
larly since the kind of work will 
probably differ from that which she 
did in the member organization. And 
finally, the larger the umbrella organ- 
ization's territory, the more physically 
impossible it is for any one person to 
perform day-to-day activities in both 
the member organization and the um- 
brella organization unless, of course, 
the umbrella headquarters is located 
in the member enterprises's commu- 

If these problems can be resolved 


and a member organization is able to 
give up one of its members for a rela- 
tively long time (a year or so) to work 
in the umbrella organization and at 
the same time represent the member 
organization in it, there are still other 
problems. For example, the interests 
of the umbrella organization as an 
entity differ from those of the mem- 
ber organization (e.g., preservation of 
unity vs. autonomy for the member 
groups). Moreover, the relatively long- 
term removal of the worker/represen- 
tative from the member organization 
and the community it serves, and her 
new identification with the umbrella 
organization may result in the worker/ 
representative becoming less a "rep- 
resentative" of her original organiza- 
tion and more a representative of the 
umbrella organization and its interests. 

In short, the requirement that those 
who do the work (of the umbrella 
group) make the decisions is not com- 
patible with the basic requirements 
for a participatory democracy. If it is 
imposed, we confront not only impos- 
sible physical problems, but also basic, 
real differences in the needs and pur- 
poses of the umbrella and member 
organizations. We also ignore the dif- 
ferences between product and money- 
making-money enterprises that ought 
to determine who makes decisions 
and in what ways. 

In reality, then, it means the insti- 
tution of a hierarchical structure, no 
matter how much we claim that this 
is not so. In reality, the philosophy of 
decision-making espoused by FEN 
means the exclusion of the member- 

ship from the process of decision-mak- 
ing, no matter how much we claim 
that we aspire to establish the best 
form of participatory democracy. 
Worst, in reality, it means accepting a 
principle basic to any oppressive struc- 
ture -that those who have the power 
are also those who rule. 

It is at this point that the philoso- 
phies apparently espoused by FEN 
concerning leadership, the freedom of 
alternatives, and decision-making con- 
verge. At the Conference's conclusion, 
at least, the Detroit-Oakland coalition 
had assured its prerogative to "assume 
leadership," and had also, through its 
principles of decision-making, assum- 
ed sole decision-making powers for 
the network it had established. More- 
over, it had combined these powers 
with its existing economic clout as 
the wealthiest of organizations rep- 











Sample copies are available at the incredibly 

high price of $1.50 Neatness doesn't count 

but it certainly helps a lot I Thank you- 

Notes on a Feminist Economics/57 

resented-i.e., it had assured its po- 
litical and economic control. In 
point of fact, however, it is not the 
organization, but rather a select group 
of people within it who have proposed 
"to provide economic development 
and accept financial leadership for the 
Feminist Movement"-the people who 
can afford to work in and for the 
organization. For only those who have 
the power of resources can afford to 
work for the umbrella organization. 


Much more can probably be said 
about the Conference, and especially 
about the views expressed and the 
extent to which the actual events 
showed these views to be real tend- 
encies of behavior and development. 
I touched, however, on what I con- 
sider to be the most critical of these 
views and tendencies. I believe that 
they constitute the point of departure 
for the two resulting organizations, 
and that what we have on our hands is 
a set of problems to which the fem- 
inist movement must provide clear 

While presumptuousness can be and 
in this case was construed as vision, 
while authoritarian attitudes can be 
and in this case were construed as 
benevolence, the proposed exercise of 
both political and economic power 
cannot be masked. It is my belief that 
only in some few instances can we, as 
a diverse population with diverse 
needs, count on such vision and bene- 
volence to accommodate us all. In 

fact, we need structures to assure that 
all necessary information in fact gets 
to those who would lead, and most 
importantly, is considered by them. 
Moreover, we need structures to assure 
that power is not abused (even un- 
intentionally). Indeed, the more eco- 
nomically independent women become 
individually and collectively, the more 
careful and critical we need to be, 
since the way we exercise our eco- 
nomic and political power both chal- 
lenges and reflects our visions and 
good will. Neither is going to auto- 
matically assure a better world for 
all, nor will they assure, in the short 
run (as long as it may be) a better 
world for women. 


iFEN bylaws, Article II, as accepted in 
this Conference. (Emphasis added.) 

2 See C. Wright Mills, Vie Power Elite 
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1956), 
for a good exemplified analysis. 

^Marx has a short and enlightening cri- 
tique of credit. See, for example, Lloyd D. 
Easton and Kurt H. Guddat (eds.), Writings 
of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Soci- 
ety (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 
Inc., 1967), pp. 269-271. I also find the 
institution of "value auditing" proposed by 
FEN enlightening in this respect, for it 
seems to accentuate some of my points. 
See the claims made by the Delinquency 
Committee of the Detroit Feminist Federal 
Credit Union contained in documents dis- 
tributed at the Conference, available frfcrn 

Copyright <D 1976 by Bat-Ami Bar On 

Bat-Ami Bar On is a Ph.D candi- 
date in philosophy at the Ohio State 


A si •SIGNS 

I Journal of Women in Culture and Society 


quarterly from The University of Chicago Press, is an international voice 
for scholarship about women. 

A sampling of articles from the first volume: 

Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations 

between Women in Nineteenth-Century America 

Helene Cixous, The Laughter of the Medusa 

Marnie Mueller, The Economic Determinants of Volunteer Work by Women 

Janet M. Todd, Images of a Feminist: The Biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft 

Nancy Tanner and Adrienne Zihlman, Women in Evolution: Subsistence and 

Social Organization in Early Hominids. 

James A. Brundage, Prostitution in Medieval Canon Law 

In every issue: 

REVIEW ESSAYS. Regular assessments of research and publications on 
women in the various disciplines and professions. A different group of related 
disciplines is covered in each issue; each group is treated once annually. 
ARCHIVES. Important documents, essays, and fiction retrieved from the 
past, accompanied by historical notes and commentary. 
REPORTS/REVISIONS. Notes on research-in-progress, meetings, new 
periodicals, programs, etc. 
BOOK REVIEWS. Concise reviews of current titles. 

A SUPPLEMENTARY ISSUE in Spring 1976: Proceedings of the Conference 
on Occupational Segregation held at Wellesley College in May 1975. 

Editor Catharine R. Stimpson, Barnard College 

Associate Editors, Joan N. Burstyn, Douglass College, Rutgers University; 

Domna C. Stanton, Barnard College Managing Editor, Sandra M. Whisler 


Please enter my subscription for one year, beginning with the inaugural issue, 
Autumn 1975. 

Institutions, $16.00 Individuals, $12.00 Students (with professor's 
signature), $9.60 Outside the United States, add $1 .00 to cover postage. 



City State Zip 

Mail with your check or purchase order to: 


The University of Chicago Press, 11030 Langley Avenue, 

Chicago, 'Illinois 60628 Q ue 

Notes on a Feminist Economics/59 


Q _Q 

by Flora Crater graphics by Meredith Rode 

60IQuest, vol. II no. 4, spring, 1976 

Those who, either by luck or con- 
scious intent, find themselves in a 
leadership position, owe it to other 
women to transmit this experience and 
whatever skills they have developed so 
that the women's movement will con- 
tinue. The struggle of women against 
the almost insurmountable power of 
the male establishment requires that 
we adopt a type of guerilla mentality 
about tactics while developing a univ- 
ersal mentality about the objectives of 
free and equal women. 

We are a small band working against 
an overwhelming encrustation of injus- 
tice upon injustice. Wc are a small band 
dependent on each other. There must 
be an economy of effort, and our 
activities must be multi-purpose. No 
action must be lost or wasted. Our 
leaders and followers must be inter- 
changeable, and our conflict must be 

Leadership must become an active 
concept open to all. It, too, must be 
multi-purpose. It must not only serve 
its immediate objective, but in the 
process, it must also function as an 
instrument for individual movement 
and spiritual growth. 

To affect the institutions of this 
country, numbers are important. Lead- 
ership in the women's movement must 
accelerate if we plan to make political 
change in government and the political 
system-institutions at best unrepre- 
sentative of women. Therefore, the 
development of leaders as an ongoing 
process is a very important element in 
the dynamics of our revolution. Lead- 
ership is a function of growth; the 

question is not whether we should have 
leaders, but how we develop all women 
as leaders. 

Leadership is the key to action, It 
is an individual matter, but as such, it 
is the temporary location of the stimu- 
lus for a particular act. Its rotation 
among all of us gives it the dynamic it 
must have as a means for the develop- 
ment of woman and her progress. But 
leadership is not only a function of 
growth; it is also a function of spirit. 
Woman is a living system of individual 
expression whose vital center is spirit. 
Thus leadership is more .than com- 
municator and director: leadership 
must feed the spirit. 

This begins by way of common 
objectives. With common objectives 
comes common experience (action): 
there is, then, a reciprocal under- 
standing and empathy among us for 
what is being attempted. Thus the key 
word in developing and using leader- 
ship as a function of spirit is "empa- 
thy"-entering into the feeling and 
spirit of another person, feeling what 
another person feels. This, then, is to 
be like her. 

Leadership as a function of growth 
and as a function of spirit, however, is 
not an end in itself. It is a process. It is 
a series of steps from one woman to 
another which fosters the readiness to 
act. It gives living meaning to an act. 
Moreover, leadership requires and im- 
plies a certain security, for action is a 
form of confrontation. Thus it prepares 
for more leadership by promoting the 
qualities necessary for its acceptance. 
Leadership as process makes itself 

Leadership, Growth and Spirit/61 

possible, believable and transmitable. 
Leadership as process is the search 
for, the discovery or creation of wom- 
an's common ground. Leadership at- 
tempts to end our isolation, and there- 
fore, the state of the women's move- 
ment is directly related to the state of 
this search. An examination of leader- 
ship as it fulfills its functions of growth 
and spirit is the movement's most 
basic examination, and it is a cumu- 
lative process. 

Leadership As a Function 
of Growth 

Leadership is a function of growth 
because it stimulates women to act and 
communicate. This stimulus works to 
extend feelings, thought and action, 
and through it, leaders and followers 
reinforce each other. But this stimulus 
can take two forms: leadership may 
relate directly to other women's needs 
as they see them, in which case the 
resulting action of movement is spon- 
taneous. Or there may be a gap 
between what the leader perceives and 
what others perceive, in which case 
there is a lack of understanding 
(learning) and little resulting move- 

Growth can be circular; increased 
consciousness and awareness, whether 
it affects two or two million, is growth 
to those involved. However, before 
the political system will respond to us, 
our development must accelerate: po- 
litical institutions respond to large 
numbers. And along with an accelera- 
tion of action, there must be an accel- 

eration of information. Active femi- 
nism is not a game to be played 
close to the chest. Since our financial 
limitations affect our ability to circu- 
late feminist information and thought, 
we are faced with a real limit on the 
number of informed women. And 
uninformed women cannot act. Thus 
leadership as a function of growth 
involves the quick and clear circulation 
of information. 

Leaders are the carriers of experi- 
ence, and as such, they have a responsi- 
bility to communicate their experi- 
ence-and not only to communicate it, 
but to simplify it-to extract its bare 
essentials and to print them. The need 
for simplified information does not 
arise out of any inability to under- 
stand complexities, but out of our 
common need to know and to act 

Experience and information are the 
two main essentials separating the 
leader from the follower. In the polit- 
ical process, leadership is in direct 
touch with reality; its objective is to 
make institutions responsive to wom- 
en's needs. The clearer the leader's 
grasp of the real situation, the more 
likely it is that her initiative or re- 
sponse will be suitable. 

At this point, another element fos- 
tering leadership growth comes into 
play: innovation. Innovation occurs 
when in a particular instance, all known 
methods have been tried and have not 
worked. Then the need to act provides 
the stimulus to innovate, and if the 
need is great enough, the lack of 
extensive experience will not be a 

62/ Quest 

deterrent. This is desirable, for while 
we try to utilize experience so as not 
to reinvent the wheel, there is always 
the possibility that we don't need the 
wagon. So innovation is possible, and 
in some instances even more likely, on 
the part of the less experienced. 

Innovative leadership, however, 
poses problems. For example, a given 
action may not always be subject to 
effective articulation. In thinking and 
designing new projects, there may not 
be time or even words for expressing 
it to others in ways that are readily 
understandable or relative to their 
experience. Though innovation pro- 
vides opportunities for touching others 

success in working with each other as 
we expand our acts and thoughts into 
new areas, is the adoption of trust and 
good faith. Leadership as a function of 
growth is also, then, the process of 
building confidence, not only so that 
others will follow, but also so that 
others will attempt leadership them- 
selves. Basic to leadership and growth, 
therefore, is respect for each other as 
individuals and the consciousness that 
each of us is in the process of creating 
self-autonomy. This respect mandates 
that we do no harm to each other. A 
damaged individual is a testament to 
failure; a damaged individual is not 
helpful to herself or to the movement. 

in ways that create possibilities for 
further individual acts and new leader- 
ship, it requires and implies flexibility 
and trust. As women act, we will be 
confronted with situations that are 
new to us (if not, we are not going 
anywhere). So, though there may be a 
tentativeness, confusion or what may 
appear to be vacillation, it is in fact a 
testing. And this testing is a necessary 
part of the innovation process. 

Thus one ingredient in women's 

This is not to say that the leadership 
process is free from pain. Growth is 
change, and change can be painful. All 
leadership, moreover, involves risk, and 
therefore risks the possibility of in- 
flicting "damage" either to self or to 
others. But responsible leadership in- 
volves a mutual respect which helps to 
insure that pain of growth and ex- 
change does not become incapacitating 
and destructive-a mutual respect for 
each woman's vital center that can 

Leadership, Growth and Spirit/63 

distinguish between the woman as 
actor and the action taken. Therefore, 
it is especially important that leader- 
ship be considered a form of steward- 

As a function of growth, leadership 
must instill in others the notion that 
they can do things well-and this 
responsibility is part of leadership as 
stewardship. It must emphasize that 
individuals as separate entities have the 
capacity to survive, that women are 
not naturally unable to do what has to 
be done for our own freedom. Thus 
leadership as a function of growth 
must develop in each woman a sense 
of her ability to provide an equal con- 
tribution. It must foster in her a 
sense of herself as an autonomous 
individual, for leadership is tied up 
with the sense of one's autonomy. 
Such autonomy is developed as a 
person encounters obstacles and learns 
how to handle or remove them. 

Here, especially, it is important that 
we remember that leadership is not 
always sought after. It is frequently 
forced, because of one's feeling that it 
is imperative to act in a particular 
situation. Your sense of what is right 
and what you are makes an undeniable 
claim on your life-a claim that de- 
mands action and leadership. This 
does not come from somebody out- 
side, but from within yourself. A 
leader will respect this process, and all 
of us, in turn, must respect it in 
others. And through this process there 
will be a growth of individuals, a 
growth of leaders, and growth of the 
women's movement. 

Leadership As a Function 
of Spirit 

All considerations of leadership as a 
function of spirit for the women's 
movement emanate from the fact of 
woman as a living being, a dynamic 
entity, versatile and capable of strength 
and action. Our obligation as women is 
to recognize and nourish this potential: 
the goals and objectives of the wom- 
en's movement are endless; the life and 
spirit of the individual, through whom 
and for whom these goals are set, is 

The present strength and activity of 
the movement lies in the aspirations 
and hopes of individual women cap- 
able of a feminist vision. Individually, 
we are innately capable of creating our 
own reality, and as a movement, we 
must create our reality in common. 
If, however, in the pursuit of goals and 
objectives on behalf of the whole, 
individuals are destroyed, the whole 
will also eventually be destroyed. 

When women come together from 
so many different places and join to- 
gether for entirely new action, there is 
bound to be conflict. For example, 
many of us have developed traits and 
habits which, although they are neces- 
sary in an individual pursuit, are not 
helpful to a joint effort; others carry 
with them the scars from a hostile 
environment. But differences arising 
from such sources can be overcome 
through considering each woman as an 
entity who carries within her the fuel 
for our movement. Through this con- 
sideration, the woman's spirit can be 


preserved, and conflict can be tem- 

The growth and development of 
individual spirits is mandatory for the 
growth and development of the spirit 
of the movement. Leadership must 
help us to consider each woman as 
part of the embodiment of what we 
all want and need. Ideas and acts are 
received individually by this dynamic 
entity-woman. She may change them, 
augment them or replace them; this 
capacity for response is within us all, 
and is the genesis of leadership. It is an 
expression of individual autonomy. 
But our universality-which is in our 
purpose and in our sex— has yet to rest 
in our hearts. 

The maintenance of the spirit of 

the women's movement must be a 
function of leadership. And it is an art. 
Leadership by example, persuasion or 
purpose attempts to instill the spirit of 
the work, the word or the idea in each 
woman, attempts to find that vital 
center in each. And the maintenance 
of the spirit of the movement is a 
function of leadership which calls for 
the ability to empathize. Leadership as 
spiritual maintenance calls for sharing 
in each woman's vital center, per- 
ceiving and nurturing her autonomy 
and her capacity for response. It calls 
for the ability to create a spiritual 
bond among women. 

But nurturing and inspiring each 
others' spirits also calls for courage. 
Women need courage, and we must get 

Leadership, Growth and Spirit/65 

it from each other. Courage feeds the 
spirit, and enables us to overcome the 
fear of taking action. It comes from a 
knowledge of the consequences of an 
act and from the determination to risk 
what may come because "the act itself is 
essential. As each of us develops the 
capacity to act and to assume leader- 
ship responsibilities, each of us de- 
velops courage, and builds her po- 
tential to share it with her sisters. 


The concept of leadership as a 
function of growth and a function of 
spirit enables us to examine the process 
of leadership within the movement and 
its effect on political change. For all 
intents and purposes, the 53% of the 
population who are women are politi- 
cally ununited. Though men as men are 
politically united in their sense of 
superiority and its resulting invest- 
ment in maintaining power, we lack 
political unity despite our oppression. 
Thus, as activists in the women's move- 
ment, we are concerned with impor- 
tant individual and specific actions, 
but we must also be engaged in finding 
the universals of women's condition 
and in the search and discovery of 

f= Subscribe to = 

common ground. Women have yet to 
share a universal sense of ourselves-but 
we are beginning to share an immut- 
able resolve that justice for women 
will be done. 

Flora Crater, editor of the Woman 
Activist and long time NOW member 
fighting for the ERA, was a candi- 
date for Lieutenant-Governor in Vir- 
ginia in 1973. 




1976 \ 

"Bird News Makes History"-illustrated 
annotated calendar recording 8 years of 
struggle in Atlanta, the South, the coun- 
try, the world. From THE GREAT SPECK- 
LED BIRD, Box 7847, Atlanta, Ga. 30309. 
Send name and address plus $2.50. 


6814*4 Sunset Blvd. Los Anqeles, Ca. 90028 



12 issues $2.50 
for sinqle issue 
send 25C 

The Newspaper of the Lavender & Red Union 



Who Was 
Rembrandt's Mother ? 

by Jackie St. Joan 

Once women wove blankets 

To warm their children 

Out of love 

And, out of love and the 

fierce desire of their own 


they made them beautiful 

Their art did not hang on 

museum walls 

But covered the bodies of 

sleeping children. 

(Where is your Rembrandt?) 

The men ash* us. 

She was a Navaho 

And the white man killed her." 1 

As this poem suggests, many of 
women's artistic leaders never have 
been recognized or allowed to flourish 
in their work, because white male 
supremacy has circumscribed their ex- 
istence and limited their roles. Simi- 
larly, many of women's political lead- 
ers never have been recognized or 
allowed to flourish in their work for 
the same reasons. Today in America, 
women are not so restricted, yet the 
women's movement is suffering from a 
lack of political leadership and a lack 

graphics by Bar bra Beers 

of political theory by which to under- 
stand the function of feminist leader- 
ship. In creating such a theory women 
must start from what is familiar to 
them. The Navaho artist based her 
work in the artistic perceptions she 
had as a Navaho and as a woman. 
Likewise, the political theorist can 
base her work on the political percep- 
tions she has as a mother, as a leader in 
the family unit. 

It would appear that within the 
family unit, in the role of mother, 
there is an underlying system by 
which women operate as leaders. In 
this article, I propose to examine 
motherhood as a model of feminist 
leadership, to identify some of the 
characteristics of the function of 
mother as they apply to the function 
of leader, and to compare how so- 
ciety's treatment of mothers is similar 
to the women's movement's treatment 
of its leaders. In naming these charac- 
teristics, I turn to my own and others' 
experiences as mothers, and to lesbian- 
feminist literature as sources of in- 

Many women carry the common 
experience as mothers, as leaders in a 

Who Was Rembrandt's Mother?/67 

unit in which others have looked to 
them for group survival. In addition, 
lesbian-feminist writers often carry 
within their work a sense of ethnicity- 
of women's identification as a people. 
Literature is a good source because 
there is at least one thing that good 
writers and good political leaders have 
in common-they pay attention to 
what inspires people (art) or to what 
moves people to act (politics). 

At this point I want to make clear 
what I am not saying. I am not saying 
that only mothers or only lesbian- 
feminists understand feminist consci- 
ousness or are capable of being leaders. 
All women carry, to a greater or lesser 
extent, the experiences of motherhood 
and lesbianism. Most women have, at 
some point in their lives, taken respon- 
sibility for someone else, whether that 
person was a husband, a child, a boss, 
or an aging parent. Also, most women 
have experienced the emotional, if not 
the physical communion of women, 
whether as a child among girlfriends, 
in the secretarial pool, or in family 
relationships. What I am saying is that 
lesbianism and motherhood are condi- 
tions, either or both of which contain 
a concentration of experience related 
to feminist ethics and feminist leader- 

The Motherhood Model 

To begin with, I see mothering 
(or parenting) as a function, and 
"mother" as a role. How that function 
and role are performed varies greatly 
according to the society, race, class, 

education, and personal style of the 
woman. In many societies, however, a 
woman is allowed only her identity as 
a mother because the survival of the 
family, as it is structured, depends on 
a woman's commitment to that role, 
and the family members' perception 
of her in that role only. When a 
woman puts a priority on her personal 
survival and wants to be seen beyond 
the mother role, or outside of it com- 
pletely, she often is seen as a betrayer 
who is weakening the group. In fact, 
she is upsetting the power relation- 
ships in the family and expecting 
others to assume some of her responsi- 
bility, an expectation against which 
family members often will rabel, and 
for which she often is punished (guilt). 
She then is expected either to return 
to the mother role, or to become 
Supermom (Margaret Anderson Plus). 
Many of the same dynamics which 
operate to limit the power of women 
as mothers operate to limit their 
power as leaders in the women's move- 

Many women whom I know are 
looking for a new model of mother- 
hood to replace the Margaret Anderson 
image which we were fed as children 
by television. Such a model would 
allow mothers to be real, which in- 
cludes being angry, not only as women, 
but in that motherhood role itself. A 
woman who is allowed to be herself 
and who also chooses to function as 
a mother, can function more freely to 

Margaret Anderson is the mother in "Father 
Knows Best. " 

68/Quest, vol. II no. 4, spring, 1976 

the betterment of herself both as a 
person and as a mother. Susan Griffin 
expresses that image in her poem, 
"I Like to Think of Harriet Tubman": 

And when I think of the President 

and the law, and the problem of 

feeding children, I like to 

think of Harriet Tubman 

and her revolver... 

I want men 

to take us seriously. 

I am tired wanting them to think 

about right and wrong. 

I want them to fear 

I want them to feel fear now 

as I have felt suffering in the womb... 

Mother- As-Leader 

In this article, I will make broad 
statements about mothers. I am, there- 
fore, stating in advance that all those 
statements need qualification. Al- 
though all mothers do carry some 
body of common experience, not all 
mothers deal with situations in the 
same way. I am exploring a new image 
of mother as leader and am drawing 
from my own experiences, from les- 
bian-feminist literature, and from the 
experiences of others I have known. 

When a woman is pregnant, gives 
birth, and mothers a child, she goes 
through a process of accepting total, 
and then, less and less, responsibility 
for someone else's survival. Her letting 
go of that power and of that responsi- 
bility is part of the process which is 
required for her own survival as a 
person and for her children's survival 

as independent human beings. In the 
process of letting go, her responsibility 
is to give accurate information to the 
child, to inspire her or his spirit, to 
teach what survival skills she knows to 
her young, and to make decisions for 
the group when they need to be made. 
Eventually, the mother will have to 
let go of her mothering role, or she 
herself will not survive as a whole 
person. A mother is more than that 
function which she performs for a 
time. If she does not let go of that 
role, her children will rebel and leave 
her behind. So many women have 
experienced this painful process from 
one side or another, that it is a clear 

lesson of women, one that applies 
equally well to political leadership as 
to motherhood. 

Other characteristics of a mother's 
power are her children's dependency 
on her for their survival, and the 
intimacy of the mother-child relation- 
ship. No one wants to be totally 
dependent on someone else for her 
survival, and ideally, in a woman-crea- 
ted society, that would not be the 
case for either mother or child. How- 
ever, that dependency does exist, 
although one saving grace to the 
relationship is that eventually every- 
one can outgrow it. Part of a mother's 
job is to foster independence, a by- 
product of which is to teach children 
how to be their own mothers and how 
to function as a mother to others when 
the situation requires it. In addition, 
time, over which we have no control, 
will change the relationship-in fact, 
time often reverses it. 

Who Was Rembrandt's Mother?/69 

The source of authority for a 
mother in the family group is derived 
from the intimacy of her relationship 
with her children that holds her ac- 
countable to them for their survival 
as a group. As they become more 
independent, they become more em- 
powered to call her to an accounting, 
and ultimately have the power to 
leave the group or to withdraw their 
active participation (and love) from 
the group, thus breaking the intimacy 
which is the source of a mother's 

Another characteristic of mother- 
hood, which some may call spiritual, 
but which I see more pragmatically as 
a survival mechanism, is faith. Mothers 

tend to be worriers because they 
know that their powers are limited, 
and that they can do only so much to 
protect and prepare a child. A mother, 

to survive this worrying and to allow 
the child to be independent, must 
operate with an assumption that some- 
how all the lessons got through and 
that this child will decide what is best 
for herself. A mother must "act as if" 
a child will make the proper decision, 
knowing at the same time that she/he 
may not. 

It may appear to be a contra- 
diction to act as if you believe one 
thing while knowing that the opposite 
thing is possible. The ability to live 
with contradictions, diversity, and ten- 
sion is another characteristic of moth- 
erhood. Judy Grahn's poem, "A Worn- 
man is Talking to Death," beautifully 
presents a woman's ability to relate to 
the connections among people, "in an 
attempt to embrace contradictory ele- 
ments of experience and responsi- 
bility. "3 She describes hating a man 


who called her a queer and slugged 
her. She describes how she 
...fantasized the scene again, this time 
grabbing the chair and smashing it 
over the bastard's head, killing himA 
Then, remembering her first love, an 
ostracized pregnant teenager, she points 
to the contradiction in the situation: 
"now when I remember, I think: 
maybe he was Josie's baby, all the 
chickens come home to roost, all of 
them." 5 

Contradictions, tensions, and di- 
versity within a group require that 
a mother be flexible, have a sense of 
humor, and allow herself to react as 
well as to act on others in the group. 

Demystifying Motherhood 

A mother empowers her children by 
feeding their spirits, not by breaking 
them. A mother can provide some of 
the conditions by which children can 
be free to make choices. Part of pro- 
viding those conditions is to disclose 
facts, goals, and process within the 
group. Moreover, a mother can demys- 
tify her role and her function by 
teaching her children how she learned 
what she's trying to teach them. This 
process allows her to let go of what 
appears to be secret knowledge and 
mystery. Alta describes this process in 
her poem, "The Ten Commandments 
of Liberation." She lists nine do's and 
don'ts, some of which are: 
Thou shalt clean up thine own messes... 
Thou shalt not use other people. As 
Tom Hay den used James Rector to 
advertise people's park, as marxists 

use workers to overthrow the ruling 
class, as I just used Tom Hay den for 
demonstration purposes... 
Thou shalt revel in what you really are 
don't change your looks, don't stop 
talking, go ahead and be. 
Thou shalt not endanger other people 
for an idea. 

Thou shalt not be ashamed. We are all 
perverts. We all have pasts we could 
spend our whole lives denying...." 
Alta then ends with the tenth Comm- 

"Write your own commandments. I 
am only a person like you. Burn this 
and memorize yourself. "' 

Similarly, a mother eventually says, 
like Alta, "Burn this" (what I have 
taught you-you're on your own) "and 
memorize yourself." Not only can a 
mother demystify her role by sharing 
the process about how she came to 
understand things, but the very fact of 
not sharing that process can be a 
means of domination in itself. 

One of the sub-functions of moth- 
ering is teaching. In general, a mother 
teaches two things: 1) individual and 
group survival skills, and 2) how to be 
a mother. The first is more conscious 
than the second; the second often is a 
by-product of teaching the first. In 
trying to communicate ethics to child- 
ren, using abstractions such as truth, 
freedom, justice, and love, is a com- 
plete dead-end. Children simply want 
to know what makes sense. They have 
no pre-conceptions and therefore hold 
no sancity to the terms themselves. 
Being concrete is a good teaching 

Who Was Rembrandt's Mother?/71 

More often than men, women pay 
attention to the connections in life, 
and can focus on the relationships 
between things, events, ideas, people. 
The two sides of our brains can com- 
municate with each other. ° At our 
best, women can communicate very 
concretely, without the splits between 
mind, body, emotion, and values. 
Women can combine the rational and 
the intuitive -hold two contradictory 
beliefs at the same time, accept that as 
reality, and still make a decision-still 
use our power. 

And finally, a re-definition of the 
role of mother must allow her to have 
faults, to be an ordinary, common 
woman, and not a model of virtue- 
feminist virtue or otherwise. Mothers 
are under incredible social pressure to 
be perfect, and often internalize the 
pressure to be a perfect mother by 
setting unreasonably high expectations 
for themselves. They are also very 
aware of being in the spotlight among 
others, especially family, in dealing 
with their children (since mothering 
has been defined as their function 


alone). Therefore, a mother feels guilty 
if she's tired, or if she even wants a 
private life of her own. The guilt, 
justifiably, turns to anger, and she 
may become unable or unwilling to 
function in her role at all. Society 
focuses on the unique significance of 
her role (one false move and the kid's 
ruined) and blames her for mistakes 
which may be her child's (or others') 

The Common Woman 

Several lesbian-feminist poets have 
written about the "ordinariness" of 
women-that it is often the common 
woman who will rise to an occasion to 
play an important role, but that it is 
because it was necessary to do so and 
she learned how to do so, not because 
she possessed a certain genius. Judy 
Grahn has written of the common 

the common woman is as common as 
good bread 

as common as when you couldn't go 
on but did. For all the world we didn't 
know we held in common 
all along 

the common woman is as common as 
the breast of bread 
and will rise 

and will become strong-I swear it to 

I swear it to you on my own head 
I swear it to you on my common 
woman's head.° 

And Susan Griffin writes about 
Harriet Tubman, a common slave, who 
did what was necessary to be done: 

and she lived in swamps 

and wore the clothes of a man 

bringing hundreds of fugitives from 

slavery, and was never caught, 

and led an army 

and won a battle, 

and defied the laws 

because the laws were wrong. * " 

The motherhood model which I 
have described reveals that women 
always have functioned as leaders in 
family and in small groups, and when 
allowed, or when necessary, in large 
groups as well. Certain qualities of 
feminist leadership can be extrapolated 
from this motherhood model, and can 
be useful to the women's movement in 
forming a political theory of leader- 

Like motherhood, I consider leader- 
ship to be a function which is teach- 
able by some and learnable by others. 
It is not a given quality with which one 
is born, although some may perform 
the function better than others, de- 
pending, at least, on the type of 
task to be accomplished and the group 
to be affected. 

It is also possible that women 
already have some notions about lead- 
ership by which women have operated 
and which we are in the process of 
naming and creating. Writer Joanna 
Russ has pointed out that there is 
a theme in women's science fiction of 
the hero with her apprentice, and that 
hero-apprentice theme is conspicuously 
absent from male science fiction, which 
is usually dominated by the Men 
Among Men. She also notes that in 
women's science fiction, heroes are 

Who Was Rembrandt's Mother?/73 

often groups of women, and that a 
hero in one group may be on the 
periphery in another group. Similarly, 
in the lesbian-feminist novels of June 
Arnold, ^ while one or two women 
may take leadership in a specific 
situation, it is the combined efforts 
and consciousness of the group of 
women which succeeds. 

These concepts suggest a pattern 
of leadership far different from mens', 
in which the group focuses on the 
leader in the center, with him and his 
constituents fortifying their egos back 
and forth. The expectation is that he 
is the leader now, and always and 
everywhere will be the leader. Male-de- 
fined leadership necessarily implies a 
political inequality between the leader 
and the constituents. Although it is 
important that women recognize that 
we do not have equal abilities (we are 
not all the same), leadership among 
women implies, perhaps for the first 
time in history, a possibility of a 
relationship between political equals. 
This is especially true when leadership 
relationships cross/or reverse class and 
race lines. 

Leadership As a Function 

The idea of leadership among pol- 
itical equals, if leadership is seen as a 
function, is not the contradiction it 
appears to be. Just as sexual relation- 
ships between women provide the 
condition for equality in that sexual 
relationship, political relationships be- 
tween women are not necessarily equal 
in all respects; those relationships are 

merely a necessary condition of equal- 
ity but not sufficient in and of them- 

Women's organic (i.e., not con- 
taminated by male systems) ways of 
leading may be a kind of "shifting 
leadership," which does not expect a 
leader to always and everywhere per- 
form that function. Marge Piercy ex- 
presses the feeling of this leadership 

/ want to be with people who submerge 
in the task, who go into the fields 
to harvest 

and work in a row and pass the bags 

who stand in line and haul in their 

who are not parlor generals ay id field 

but move in a common rhythm 
when the food must come in, or the 
fire be put out.-* 

This quality of people "who do 
what has to be done, again and again," 
is a quality of a good leader also, who 
knows how to join in the task with 
others. If shifting leadership is a valid 
assumption about female leadership, 
then it is important that feminists 
consider that concept and take advan- 
tage of that knowledge politically. 

In searching for models of leader- 
ship, feminists can examine what they 
know about male leadership and fe- 
male leadership as they have been. To 
the extent that feminists need to be 
organized to gain power, we are de- 
pendent on our leaders for our sur- 
vival also. Viewed as a function, leader- 
ship involves a pattern of mutual 


dependency and responsibility. A 
group empowers a leader with certain 
responsibilities. The leader, however, 
requires that the constituents take 
responsibility for their own tasks with- 
in the group, and that they perceive 
the leader not only as the role which 
she plays within the group. For her 
own survival as a person, the leader 
must not be seen only in that role. 
Her letting go of power depends on 
the ability of others to learn her 
functions and to be willing to perform 
her role when her leadership time is 
spent. This not-being-willing-to-let-go- 
of-power and the not-being-willing-to- 
accept-responsibility dynamic often 
destroys feminist organizations. Clear- 
ly naming the process which takes 
place in any transfer of power in an 
organization is one step in easing that 
change itself. 

What gives a leader authority? Like 
mothers, many political leaders learn 
how to function as leaders from other 
leaders before them, and may pose 
them as models in their own minds. 
So, to some extent, a leader's authority 
may come from the sense of responsi- 
bility which the leader has learned 
from her model. However, the ultimate 
authority of a political leader, both 
politically and ethically, comes from 
the quality of her relationship with 
her constituents. It is to them that she 
must give an accounting of her steward- 
ship. No woman is going to pay her 
dues (to some one or some thing) and 
have no say about what those dues go 
for. If a leader does not account 
(take responsibility for) her actions, 

her constituents have the ultimate 
control to deny the leadership function 
to her. 

In the women's movement, how- 
ever, this denial of leadership often 
takes the form of attack on one's 
personal style and characteristics, and 
is more often backbiting than an 
objective evaluation of a woman's 
capacity in her role as a leader. By 
not viewing leadership as a function 
(which includes a large investment of 
power in one individual), feminists 
often destroy the political work they 
have accomplished, and the very wom- 
en who have helped them to accom- 
plish it. Expecting a woman to ac- 
count for her function as a leader is 
valid politically; expecting her to ac- 
count for herself personally because 
she is a leader, is not. 

Leaders and constituents alike need 
to operate from an assumption of 
good faith. Like a mother's attitude 
towards her children, faith is "acting 
as if" women have the courage when 
we know that many ot us are cowards. 
Faith is the opposite of defensiveness 
and paranoia. Elitism, on the other 
hand, is having no faith. Rather, it is 
developing a prejudice against either 
the Led or the Leader. From the 
leader's perspective, it is assuming that 
women cannot think for themselves, 
and results in leaving the weak ones 
behind, powerless and confused. From 
the constituent's perspective, elitism 
is assuming that the leader is not 
looking out for the best interests of 
the group, and results in the destruc- 
tion and loss of many valuable women 

Who Was Rembrandt's Mother?/75 

as leaders in the movement. Politically, 
faith is a survival mechanism that 
assumes women are becoming free 
as individuals and responsible as pol- 
itical women. 

Sharing the Process 

Elitism also includes not sharing 
the process of decision-making and 
experience with constituents. Leaders 
can demystify that function (as moth- 
ers demystify their role) by letting go 
of what appears to be secret know- 
ledge and mysteries of decision-mak- 
ing. Male leaders often just arrive at 
a certain point and proceed to give 
orders. They often present their pos- 
ition on certain issues as accomplished 
fact, without sharing with their con- 
stituents how they got to that position 
from having no position at all. Much 
like male journalists, who present only 
the facts, the news, the headlines of a 
story, many male political leaders fail 
to present the contradictions, the div- 
ersity, and the struggle which com- 
prised the decision. 

A feminist leader, like a mother, 
must empower her constituents by 
listening to them and by teaching 
them what she knows about getting 
things done. A leader can do this by 
sharing the process of her thinking 
and her experience with her con- 
stituents. Good leaders do not break 
our spirits or leave us feeling like 
losers. Leaders, like mothers, should 
provide the conditions by which wom- 
en can be free to make choices-dis- 
closure of facts, goals, process. There- 

fore, leaders have an obligation to tell 
truly what is happening, rather than 
to contrive a situation so that it will 
be to their advantage. This is not to 
say that leaders cannot plan strategy, 
goals, or intent. In fact, they must, as 
part of their function as leaders. It is 
to say, however, that those plans must 
be part of the disclosure, upfront, 
where everyone can judge for herself. 

This process also implies that a 
leader must be concrete about what 
she is saying, and not explain in vague 
or general terms that are, in effect, 
meaningless to others. Not being spec- 
ific often means not communicating, 
which can develop into a means of 
domination itself. Constituent; respon- 
sibility in this regard is to be attentive, 
and when practical, to interact with 
the leader to a point of understanding. 

Men have developed the Great Man 
theory of leadership: a leader possesses 
special qualities that account for his 
achievements, and which others can 
aspire to, but somehow will never 
attain. 4 Women know better than to 
believe this myth about male leaders, 
and should know better than to believe 
the myth about mothers. Women have 
given birth to, have raised, have com- 
forted, have been brutalized by, and 
have buried all those Great Men. They 
have seen him from all sides. ^ Per- 
haps this is one explanation of why 
feminists have been so distrustful of 
leaders who pretend to be, or who are 
presented by the media as The Great 

On the other hand, it is often 
these same feminists who will not 


allow their leaders to have failings, and 
who exert the same social pressure on 
political leaders that is put on the 
individual mother by society. Some- 
one is looking for a scapegoat and for 
both mothers and leaders, it's a set-up. 
People want a leader (mother) who 
has no failings, yet they want to blame 
her for the group's failings by exposing 
her faults and destroying her person- 
ally. The result of this dynamic is a 
reluctance on the part of many women 
to accept leaders who pretend to be 
faultless; and, more seriously, a reluc- 
tance or refusal on the part of many 

competent women to accept leadership 
in the movement as long as they arc 
expected by others to be faultless. 
Another aspect of this dilemma is 
that not all women have identical 
skills, and that many women arc 
denied their own ability to lead by 
feminists who insist that women arc 
all the same. Some women are better 
leaders than others, just as some wom- 
en are better mothers than others. 
And just as society expects all women 
to function equally well at mothering, 
the women's movement expects all 
women to function equally well at 

Who Was Rembrandt's Mother?/77 

leading. The attitude is that no matter 
what skills the job requires, the job 
can be rotated. While it is true that 
most skills can be learned, and that 
leadership is one of those skills, it is 
destructive to the task of the group to 
expect everyone to perform equally 
well at any task. It is also destructive 
to the group's task to postpone or 
limit the scope of the work that needs 
to be done, until each woman can 
acquire the skills of everyone else. In 
this way, our work becomes a personal 
workshop and our political work in- 

It also is true that in a family every- 
one is not the same. However, in the 
heterosexual nuclear family structure, 
leadership functions are usually div- 
ided up along sex role lines. In an 
efficient family which is not modeled 
on the nuclear family model, dif- 
ferences in ability are recognized, and 
although skills are taught and shared, 
the survival and efficiency of the group 
depends on its using the best of its 
group in certain capacities when spe- 
cific skills are needed. 

Women will not accept leaders or 
heroes imposed on them, especially 
ones who are unwilling to share rec- 
ognition, when that sharing is due. 
Likewise, women will not accept lead- 
ers who display no fear, no doubts, no 
conflicts, and who have all the answers. 
I believe that women will accept 
leadership from the common woman 
who knows what she is doing, and 
who will tell you woman-to-woman 
what she knows about getting things 
done. She will deserve recognition 

herself, and will share that recognition 
with others when it is due. 

However, leaders will not emerge if 
they receive no recognition for what 
they have done. No one wants to lead 
(or to mother, or to anything else for 
that matter) without receiving some 
recognition for having performed that 
function. Male society rewards its 
achievers in one way or another, thus 
reinforcing that behavior and encour- 
aging participation in that system. The 
women's movement seldom does the 
same, and often is more likely to 
negatively reinforce women's accomp- 
lishments. Until- feminists are willing 
to accept leadership as a valuable and 
necessary function in a political move- 
ment, and are willing to reward its 
leaders when they deserve credit for 
their work, the movement will be 
crippled as a political force and talent- 
ed women will be continually frust- 
rated. If the romantic rewards attached 
to motherhood were removed, and 
women were given a free choice about 
becoming mothers, how many women 
would actually choose to do work for 
which they receive little if any recog- 



Feminists must define our relation- 
ships to our leaders, and as leaders, to 
our constituents. If we don't, our 
leaders may well define us, or we may 
find ourselves without women will- 
ing to emerge as leaders. This pro- 
cess requires looking at our respon- 
sibilities both as leaders and con- 


stituents. Taking responsibility for 
what one does, whether in a leader- 
ship function or not, is the first 
step towards framing a concept of 
feminist ethics, and of feminsit lead- 
ership. The motherhood model of 
leadership is an attempt to uncover 
what women already know about lead- 
ership in a small group, and to create 
one possibility of a model for women 
as political leaders, an adaptation of 
an already existent framework of lead- 
ership. This characterizing of the qual- 
ities of feminist leadership should not, 
and need not, be thought of as a creed. 
It is merely a beginning, with a few 
clues, a few openers, a maximization 
of what we need to define about 


^Taken from a poster by Kathleen 
Thompson of Chicago, Illinois. 

2 Susan Griffin, "I Like To Think Of 
Harriet Tubman," Shameless Hussy Press, 
P.O. Box 424, San Lorenzo, CA. 

3lnez Martinez, "The Poetry of Judy 
Grahn, "Margins, August, 1975, 2919. N. 
Hackett, Milwaukee, WI, Beth Hodges, ed. 

\Judy Grahn, "A Woman Is Talking To 
Death," The Woman's Press Collective, 5251 
Broadway, Oakland, CA. 

"Alta, "The Ten Commandments Of 
Liberation," Burn This And Memorize Your- 
self, Times Change Press, Penwell Road, 
Washington, NJ 07882. 


^Gina Covina, "Rosy Rightbrain's Exor- 
cism/Invocation," The Lesbian Reader, 
Amazon Press, 395 60th St., Oakland, 
CA. 94618. 

"Judy Grahn, The Common Woman, 
The Woman's Press Collective, 5251 Broad- 
way, Oakland, CA 94618. 

l^Susan Griffin, supra note 2. 

HFrom a lecture by Joanna Russ, 
author of The Female Man, (Bantam Books), 
Woman To Woman Bookcenter, Denver, 
Colorado, December 14, 1975. 

12j uri e Arnold, Sister Gin, The Cook 
and the Carpenter, Daughters, Inc., 54 7th 
Ave. South, New York, NY 10014. 

l^Marge Piercy, "To Be Of Use," To Be 
Of Use, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 
Garden City, New York. 

l^From lectures by Rita Mae Brown, 
Sagaris, June 1975. 

l^This point is dramatically made in 
the film, "The Women's Happy Time Com- 
mune," Women Make Movies, New York, 

My thanks to Barbra Beers for 
performing the mothering function 
for my children, during the time it 
took me to write this article. 

Jackie St. Joan is a lesbian-feminist 
writer, law student, and organizer of 
the Colorado Feminist Federal Credit 
Union, who lives in an old house with 
a leaky toilet. 

m~ GAIA'S GUIDE, 1976 "•» 
for Gay Women 

The pocket size international bar/club guide and 
directory to resorts, restaurants, centers, switch- 
boards, organizations, publications, bookstores, 
mail order houses plus many resources and ser- 
vices. This third edition : all U.S.A. plus 40 other 
countries. 2000 listings. $5.00 only. On sale at: 
LAMMAS WOMEN'S SHOP, 321 7th St., S.E. 
and LAMBDA RISING, 1724 20th St., N.W. in 
D.C. Or sendS5.oowithyournameandaddress to 
115 New Montgomery Street 
San Francisco, California; 94105 

Who Was Rembrandt's Mother?/79 


«-* For a M New Society 

A Special Issue 

left with 


and Programs 

for 1976 


Gar Alperovitz 
Peter Barnes 
Jeff Faux 
Tom Hayden 
Christopher Jencks 
Andrew Kopkind 
James R. Polk 
James Ridgeway 
Emma Rothschild 
Stephen Schlesinger 
Derek Shearer 

Send $2.50 for this issue or $10 for a one-year 
subscription to: Working Papers. Dept. S31, 
123 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138 

Street . 



(institutional rate $12. overseas rate $15) 


Notes for prospective contributors 

We would like to describe our processes for handling material 
for each issue. About 9 months before an issue comes off the 
presses, a small development committee prepares a list of ques- 
tions and ideas which we hope that particular issue will cover. This 
list is available to anyone who is considering submitting ideas for 
the issue, outlines for potential articles, manuscripts, poetry, gra- 
phics, etc. We accept unsolicited material and seek out writers and 
artists known to have definitive political perspectives on issues 
related to the theme. 

All material is reviewed by several staff members. If it is not 
appropriate for Quest purposes the manuscript or graphic will be 
returned to the author. If a manuscript is to be considered, it is 
then assigned to one Quest editor. This editor is responsible for 
working with the author through whatever processes of rewriting 
and editing required. This process includes soliciting comments and 
suggestions from various Quest staff and Advisory Committee 
members. Authors will receive final edited manuscripts for review 
before printing. 

Manuscripts should be double spaced on 8V2 by 11 paper, using 
a black ribbon, submitted in duplicate (original plus one copy). 
Length of submissions should be from 2,500 words (10 type- 
written pages) for reviews, responses and short articles, to, 
at most, 7,500 words (25 pages) for longer articles. Where 
appropriate, bibliographic footnotes should be collected and 
typed at the end of the paper in numerical order. All manu- 
scripts, poems, and graphic material must be accompanied by a 
stamped, self-addressed envelope. Only original, unpublished 
manuscripts and graphics are acceptable. 

Graphics, cartoons, photographs are requested. For information 
concerning graphic specifications, please address all correspondence 
to the attention of Alexa Freeman. 

future issues 


Summer, 1976 vol. Ill no.l 

Are we connecting our lives to our ideas? This issue will be an open 
forum for substantive response to our first two years of publication and 
for your input to help chart our future. We seek discussion of topics 
and ideas that you consider vital, as well as commentary on previous 
articles. Copy Deadline: February 15, 1976 


Fall ,1976 vol. Ill no. 2 

The selection and transmission of information is an index to power 
in mass society: feminists must analyze how this power affects women 
and determine how we can use it to better political effect. Areas for ar- 
ticles include: the role and functions fo the media in our society; com- 
munication and art; communication and political organization; feminist 
forms of communication. Copy Deadline: May 15, 1976 


Winter, 1976-77 vol. Ill no. 3 

Work is an essential part of our lives: of our survival, our self-identity, 
and our group identification. Crucial to feminist vision are new ways of 
viewing and organizing work. Areas for articles include: What is defined 
and rewarded as work— for men or women; how does work affect our 
self-concept, especially in regard to class, race, and sex; what are 
feminist modes of organizing work. Copy Deadline: August 15, 1976 


Spring, 1977 vol. Ill no. 4 

While feminists create a "women's culture," we learn about our dif- 
ferences as women; we must examine how race goes beyond the color 
of our skin and class means more than just the money we make. We seek 
articles for this issue that discuss various aspects of the relationship be- 
tween political development and culture, with a particular focus on the 
issues of class and race. Copy Deadline: November 15, 1976